Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 72, final update done)

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 51)

Postby Meaneye » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:36 pm

A somewhat longer update than usually. Writing conversations is hard :D

Aboard the Opportunity

591 days after the Emperor’s death.

‘I am initiating Protocol Omega Point Four,’ Captain Malistrum said.

The officers leaned back in their chair and considered his carefully. The Omega protocols were a set of doomsday scenarios for a situation which the strike force would have been unable to handle in conventional ways. Every single one of them acknowledged that a single ship with a hundred battle-brothers could not have achieved victory, yet some strategic objective made it necessary for them to fight on regardless.

The ancestors of the Fatemakers listed all possibilities in their rational yet paranoid style. Protocol Omega Point One described a suicide run through a numerically superior enemy battlefleet, which included sending boarders over to approaching vessels, shooting and ramming their way through the rest only to blow up the Warp-reactors of their own ship when they felt they fought their way into a suitably tight formation of hostiles. Protocol Two set up various ways to tie down a massive land-based army in one place, only for the Astartes ship to bomb the entire area at the right moment, killing every single Space Marines in the process. Protocol Three was more like an engineering plan, examining ways of landing the strike force ship on a planet, forever wrecking it, but allowing the survivors to use the hull as a veritable fortress, allowing them to fight with the entire world, if necessary. Protocol Four…

Of all the various plans, up to Protocol Eight – necessitated by the Neodevourer Wars – number Four was the only one which did not explicitly include the deliberate destruction of the strike force itself. The Chapter had implemented this plan twice before, and although the battle had been won in both cases, the strike forces had to be re-organized because there had not been enough survivors to execute any further missions. Strike Force Four itself had never used any of the Omega Protocols, Number Four or otherwise. There had never been any need for it up to this point.

There was great potential in an Astartes company, greater than men credited them for, even though Space Marines had always been formidable warriors. If a strike force decided to forgo all safety precautions, call for any reserves, unleash all their armour, mobile artillery, aircraft, all specialist weapons they had accumulated over long centuries; if they organized all their serfs, many of whom had so hard training they were probably the equivalent of any veteran Guard force; if the commander ordered to deploy the ancient, relic-like weapons of his Chapter and gave energized, plasma- and melta-weapons into the hand of every warrior, human or post-human; if he donned all his battle-brothers into the best Terminator-armours and made a Devastator out of everybody else, the level of destruction they could do would be legendary. For the duration of the battle, the strike force would become an army, capable of defeating other massed armies, like the old Legions from the Emperor’s Great Crusade.

And then the strike force would burn out and die. There was a reason why Space Marines did not fight alone as separate armies any more. In any engagement, especially one which involved macro-weapons, attrition was an unavoidable fact. Those original twenty Legions could deploy tens of thousands of Astartes warriors in problematic battlefields, but they must have also lost them by the hundreds. Hundreds of lost battle-brothers would have meant the crippling of any modern-day Chapter, forcing it out of action for decades. Striking fast and hard was the motto of the Space Marines of the 42nd millennium: exposing themselves for the duration of a strike, moving on by the time the enemy could mass up against them, hitting key targets only and let regular human armies kill the rest of the enemies.

Malistrum had the right idea. The heretic Mechanicus forces were well-prepared for a frontal assault, which was what this mission needed now. Then three Warhounds made everything infinitely worse. Titans were army-killers; perhaps the small and agile Warhound less so, but the three of them could very well massacre the entire company without on their own. Strike Force Four could not hold back anything.

‘I don’t have to tell you what it means,’ Malistrum continued. There was tension in his voice, and he did not try to hide it. ‘We will sacrifice a lot in the coming battle. Perhaps all. Our endurance will be tested, the loyalty of our allies will be tested. I have faith in both. I cannot say that we have beaten worse odds than this because we have not; but I know we will beat these odds. We will beat them because there is no other option before us.’

He gestured towards his men. ‘When the battle is over, we will count our losses, and decide if the prize makes up for our sacrifice. All of you have your tasks: study it, and prepare you men as well.’ He hesitated for a second. ‘The Emperor is no more,’ he said, ‘but we still have our souls. I leave it up to you how and with whom you want to make peace before we go to war.’

He nodded. ‘I am done here. The pre-battle meeting will start in exactly thirty hours.’

There was some clamour as the men stood up and left, one by one. Akichi also stood up, but he did not move. Malistrum’s eyes narrowed. He said nothing until the last officer had gone out, then nodded to the Librarian.

‘Speak your mind,’ he simply said.

Akichi seemed unusually edgy. His mouth moved as if he was about to say something, but he could not make himself say it. Malistrum waited patiently.

‘Protocol Omega Point Four involves the culling of the human contingent, my lord,’ he finally managed.

Malistrum sighed. Of course this was the problem.

‘This is the hardest part of it all,’ he answered. ‘There aren’t enough armsmen aboard to deploy proper formations out of them. There aren’t enough Ogryns either. The residents are the only solution.’

Akichi remained silent for a few seconds.

‘These are the same people you charged me to literally protect their souls,’ he said. ‘We kept them alive so far, and now we will kill them.’

‘The enemy will kill them, not us,’ Malistrum reminded him.

‘They will not survive. I mean, even if they do survive, they won’t.’

‘I know,’ Malistrum agreed. It was obvious that he had to force himself to say these words, but the fact remained that he said them anyway. ‘These people are resources. Just like us, just like this ship. When the situation arises, we use our resources. We consume them.’ he stepped closer and placed a hand on Akichi’s shoulder. ‘We have spent too much time with them, and we obviously forgot that in the end, we are all expendable. Life is harsh.’

He took his hand off the Librarian, and moved towards the door.

‘My lord?’ Akichi called after him.

Malistrum turned.

‘Two weeks ago you said you would eventually betray your people’s trust,’ the Librarian said quietly. ‘I believe this is what is happening now.’

The commander did not react.

‘I believe you said two weeks ago that you would eventually follow me to Hell itself,’ he finally said in a sad, painful voice. ‘I believe this is what is expected of you now.’

And with these words, he left the room, leaving the Librarian behind.

Captain Malistrum’s debate with Librarian Akichi was hardly the only emotion-laden conversation on the ship that day. Strike Force Four reached a turning point in its course, and a lot of people felt they needed to talk to someone. The conversations varied; some were arguments, some were more like monologues with another person listening. The crew of the Opportunity took a symbolic deep breath as they were preparing for the great attack, as if they had known that not all of them would return – in fact, they would not even set off as the same person.

Perhaps the largest group of Astartes gathered in one of the smaller training chambers. There was only one access corridor to it, which made it ideal for someone who did not want to be herd by any intruders, and the people present knew it for a fact that the cameras observing this area were still severely malfunctioning after the noosphere attack of the Vetrix-class pirate ship.

Even so, the gathering would have been suspicious under normal circumstances. A surprising number of officers and specialists, as well as a good number of ordinary battle-brothers were crammed up in the room. They were all listening to one person talking.

‘This is going to be it,’ Scout-Sergeant Essen said. His voice was even, and his face did not show any emotion whatsoever as he uttered the words. ‘We cannot go any further. This attack will cost us too much.’

The others listened in silence. There had been other conversations before where everybody had said everything he wanted to say. Now they only needed confirmation.

‘This will be the Ablathea-campaign that the strike force could never do,’ Essen continued. ‘The battle which cripples us so bad we will need a re-haul and a few years of building up our strength. Except we won’t be able to do so now. We will be lesser things after this or we die out all together.’

‘Explain to us, then, why we won’t make our move before the attack,’ a voice growled from the back.

Essen cast a hard look at the speaker. ‘I thought we had an agreement. I thought you were in on this. We make our move now, and it will end up in bloodshed, except it is our brothers’ blood that we will spill. And they will spill ours in return. I will not do this favour to those heretics out there.’

‘Did you change your mind about them?’ a second voice asked.

‘I still don’t care about them,’ the Sergeant shook his head. ‘But I would like to see what information we will find about our reserve fleet down there. And before you ask,’ he lifted a finger, ‘I no longer care that much about their fate, either. But we need closure. We didn’t do that when the Fatemakers were created from our ancestor Chapters. We buried our past, and it crawled out from the grave just a few weeks earlier. Now we are the bad people, and our enemies, the Twilight Monks, are the good ones. I intend to leave a clean sheet to those coming after us.’

‘Which is why I need you to cooperate,’ he stated. ‘With me, and with the Captain. We cannot hold back. We have to go and kill and bleed and die for that information. Of that, I am sure.’

The others did not seem to be so sure. Essen saw the doubt on their face, and he could not blame them. He himself had a difficult time accepting the fact that he had to move against his own Captain – against the old Chapter in a way. He had no choice. He was fighting for the same thing as Malistrum – the survival of the Fatemakers – but their preferred paths were getting mutually exclusive.

He was a Space Marine. He needed to act, and he needed to switch off his emotions when the situation demanded it. As an Astartes, he was capable of doing so, even against his own Captain.

May the Emperor forgive him. Except He no longer lived, and so His forgiveness was impossible.

May the Emperor forgive him. Except He no longer lived, and so His forgiveness was impossible.

Sergeant Andorias was sitting in a very similar training chamber as the one the conspirators occupied, although this one was empty, just life most of the deck where it was founded. He preferred it that way. There was no need for witnesses for his preparation.

He was brandishing his chain-sword in his hand. The rest of his battlegear was arranged on the floor in front of him. He had already checked the bolt pistol and the jump-pack, and, as usual, he found no fault in the mechanism of either of them. He knew he would not. He had done the same preparation countless times before, although those times, he also said the ritual prayers to the spirits of the instruments as well as the Emperor Himself.

He was doing neither this time. The Emperor was dead, requiring no further prayers, and the machine spirits would not approve of what he was planning to do anyway. It was enough if they simply worked.

You would have to die for that first, and this is the part which worries me more, Uskovich told Captain Malistrum on that fateful day. ‘You hold us together. Who could take over your place?’

Andorias remembered it all. He also remembered the day itself: the battle where he was forced to kill Astartes for the first and only time in his life. He fought hard for Strike Force Four that day, and, partly owing to his contribution, the Opportunity could continue her journey.

Killing fellow Space Marines hurt. It hurt more than he showed, but at least he still had a clear purpose then. The world was simple and clear-cut: he had his place in it, and he served his function well. Everything else had its purpose around him as well: his superiors who would give him orders, his subordinated whom he could give orders in return, and his fellow officers who, in theory, were his equals.

There are always some who were more equals than the others. Some rise while others stay in their place, where they belonged. He thought he had figured it out a long time ago.

His Captain had proven him wrong. We need a strong one for this task, Malistrum explained to Chaplain Uskovich while he was preparing for the duel with the leader of the Howling Griffons. He was not sure if he would survive the coming battle. It was a strange and unsettling thought that one day, Andros Malistrum would cease to be and another person should take his place.

But not him. Not him, no, never, NEVER!

Andorias’s fist clenched around the handle of the chainsword. He looked at his own grip, and forced himself to loosen his fingers. It took him some time to do that, and this was a worrisome prospect. He was losing it. He would not remain a functional Astartes officer much longer.

He exhaled loudly. Where did it start? When he had accidentally overheard the conversation between the Captain and the Chaplain? Aboard the Sororitas ship? Even before that, when he had first learned of the demise of the Emperor?

There were others too, he knew it. Chaplain Uskovich himself had fallen far from the implacable warrior and preacher he used to be. Other officers and even Battle-Brothers had shown symptoms of exertion. Hemethor and his squad were in a terrible shape. It would have been impossible to imagine that a fellow Space Marine could murder his own squad-mate and then commit suicide. Who else would follow his example.

Sadly, he knew the answer. Essen was planning something, something which the Captain would not have approved had he known about it. Andorias did not know exactly what he was about to do, but he knew enough. Before the Scout-Sergeant acted, he himself had to make a decision.

In the end, it was not that hard a decision. Andorias knew himself enough to know that he could not follow his Captain’s succession plans. In the end, everybody had their limit, and he knew he had reached his own.

He was still himself, at least for a little while. Before he got lost in a red-hot mist of violence and anger, before his Captain would pass his leadership own publicly, before Essen himself acted, he had one chance to make new fate for at least two men in the strike force. They used to be friends when they were little, before the Chapter had taken them from their hab-block. They used to do everything together, even if they no longer liked remembering it.

It seemed fitting that they would end their path together too.

Andorias slowly pulled his finger along the flat surface of the chain-sword. The metal dimly reflected his visage, but he could not recall his own features in the distorted image.

He finally looked up.

‘You will die down there,’ he told the emptiness in his room.

It took several long seconds for the door-panel to slide aside. When it did, Akichi stepped forward.

‘I wanted to…’

He stopped as he looked at Chaplain Uskovich.

‘…talk to you,’ he finished. He took a good look at the Astartes standing in front of him. ‘Am I disturbing?’ he asked.

Uskovich looked at him for a while. ‘Come in if you want,’ he finally said and stepped away from the door.

Akichi hesitated for a moment before he accepted the invitation. He stepped in the Chaplain’s room.

Uskovich was the spiritual leader of the strike force, but he did not possess much more than the rest of the Astartes aboard the ship. He had his bed, his weapon and armour rack, his chest for his personal belongings, a cogitator in one corner and a small shrine to the Emperor in the other one. These last two objects were the only things which made the room stood out among all the other chambers the Fatemakers occupied.

Akichi wondered how an almost empty room could be so messy. The bed had tiny creases on the surface as if the owner had been turning left and right while sleeping on it. The chest was open, and the lock was casually thrown next to it. Uskovich had taken off his armour – which was strange in itself – and although he had put every piece in its proper place on the rack, the pieces were hanging there in disarray. A Space Marine’s armour rack with the armour on usually looked as if the rack was wearing the armour itself: every piece was meticulously arranged in the exact same way it was worn: shoulder pads looking inside, gauntlets hanging with their fingers arranged along straight parallel line. Uskovich seemed to have taken off his armour and simply put it on the rack without any further arrangement.

The Chaplain was completely naked. His face may have been youthful and pleasant to look at, but his body was scarred and torn just like any other brother in the strike force. There were burn-marks on him, and cuts and gashes too; his fused ribcage had a slight irregularity in it: this suggested a massive blunt trauma which had broken the reinforced bone with such a force it had not knotted together properly later on.

The face was still the most terrible. The Chaplain looked weak. His eyes were blood-shot, he was a shade paler than he used to be, and his expression was somewhere between tiredness and bleakness, none of which was a regular visitor on his face. His movement as he went back to his bed and literally fell on it was painfully slow. Wounded brothers moved this way, and the Chaplain was sound – at least in body.

Uskovich turned his head and looked at the Librarian, who was standing uncertainly in the middle of the room. ‘Yes?’ he asked.

Akichi made an uncertain movement around the room.

‘What happened?’

‘I took off my armour,’ the Chaplain answered in a tired voice.

‘I see that, but…’


‘Why did you pout it away so messily?’

The Chaplain turned his head again to see what Akichi was talking about. ‘Oh, that,’ he said. ‘Well, I was feeling tired. Sleepy. Do you remember what it feels like to be sleepy like a mortal?’

‘No,’ the Librarian frowned. ‘I could bring forth the memory if you want to, but…’

‘Don’t bother,’ Uskovich waved with his hand. ‘I didn’t remember myself. You don’t sleep for a few decades like normal people do, and you tend to forget it, right?’ He chuckled mildly. ‘But I’m no longer a conditioned brother like you are. I can still meditate, and I remember the mental exercises, but it takes me hours to get into the proper mental state, so I no longer bother. Anyway, as it turned out, we can only do a perfectly precise job when we really concentrate on it. You lose concentration, your mind wonders, and suddenly, it doesn’t matter how you put your bloody helmet on its place any more. I was so tired I had to concentrate not to fall asleep while standing at the rack. You see, I need rest and sleep now.’ he looked away. ‘God-Emperor, I hate to be a human.’

Akichi was not sure how to answer that.

Uskovich continued. ‘And when I finally took off my armour, I realized something else. Did you know that we smell when we get out of our armour?’

The librarian was taken aback. ‘Smell?’

‘Body odour,’ Uskovich explained. ‘Even if we don’t perspire as much as regular people, we get dirty and grimy under all that ceramite. I did not take off that armour over there for two weeks, and now I did and I stank. I stank so badly I could not start to sleep.’ He sat up on his bad, and looked up. ‘When was the last time you took off your armour?’

Akichi suddenly felt uncomfortable. ‘Last week I took it off to check and maintain it. Three more weeks before that.’

‘There you go,’ Uskovich waved towards him. ‘We are lucky we don’t show up in front of the crew without our armour. We feel the smell, but we ignore it because we are conditioned to do so. I’m not, and the stench got up my nose.’

Akichi remained silent for a moment. ‘Uskovich…’

‘I went to the Apothecarion on this level because it has a shower to clean the patients’ body,’ the Chaplain continued, ignoring his fellow Astartes. ‘I soaked my body in water, and I used disinfectant gel to remove the dirt. Then, as I put on my gown, I realized that I was wet, and my gown got wet too as I came back to my room. I think mortals have a piece of cloth to wipe their bodies after soaking it. I had nothing. I had one single gown, which I used to wipe off the water, and then I put it back in the chest because I don’t have a rack to hang it up on, and I cannot close the top of the chest because the gown has to get dry and I don’t know how to dry it.’

Akichi tried to interrupt him again.


‘And even so, I cannot sleep,’ the Chaplain continued. ‘I cannot sleep because I keep thinking of how the world is coming apart around us. The Emperor died, the Imperium is falling apart, our Chapter is well on its way to become a pirate fleet and the Twilight Monks turned out to be more righteous than we are. Do you ever think about how this is all wrong?’

The Librarian shifted. ‘I do,’ he admitted. ‘Sometimes. Then I…’

He could not continue, and Uskovich nodded. ‘Then you use your conditioning, and you force your mind to turn towards other issues. I envy you for that.’ He leaned back on the bed, and closed his eyes.

Akichi remained still. ‘I worry about the Captain,’ he finally said.

Uskovich opened his eyes and looked back at him again, although he said nothing.

‘He is making bad decisions now,’ the Librarian continued.

‘Is he?’ Uskovich asked.

Akichi took a deep breath. ‘The Omega Protocol will kill our crew.’

The Chaplain nodded. ‘We all know this. They will be told what we expect from them.’

Akichi leaned forward. ‘We are effectively sacrificing them. What would this make of us?’

‘The Captain made a hard decision. Not a bad one, a hard one. Believe me, I know he is still holding it together.’

Akichi shook his head, and Uskovich frowned. ‘Didn’t you come because you wanted reassurance?’

‘I did,’ the answer came. ‘But now I look at you and I wonder…’

Uskovich looked up right into his eye. ‘Tell me if you believe I am no longer capable,’ he said levelly. ‘You saw my mind. You saw it break and you saw me go on. Tell me if you believe I am still broken, faulty or incapable.’

The Librarian’s pressed his lips together. He knew about the Chaplain’s mental condition. Uskovich looked tired and battered; he had clearly lost his Astartes conditioning; he was not wearing any cloth. Yet his eyes were ice cold. Akichi no longer saw the Astartes behind those eyes, but he still saw a man with steel-like determination.

‘You are… still capable,’ he admitted. ‘This only makes me wonder why you side with our Captain.’

Uskovich rubbed his temple again. ‘You don’t want to lose the mortal crew in this battle,’ he stated.

‘No,’ the other answered, ‘I do not. I have no idea why he agreed to this. We are supposed to protect these people, not…’

‘…use them?’ Uskovich finished his sentence. ‘Actually, we are. We are supposed to use them as war material. We feed them, we train them, we give them equipment, but the aim of their existence is to fight our wars. Surely you remember this.’

Akichi snorted and started to pace up and down.

‘These are the same people whom we gave modified Eldar soulstones,’ he said. The Chaplain followed him with his eyes as he was walking aggressively on the room. ‘We devoted time and energy to saving their souls. They are more to us than a simple asset we can exploit.’

‘No, they are not,’ Uskovich interrupted. ‘They are important for you. This is the problem. Two years ago, you would have not hesitated to spend their lives for a worthy cause.’

The Librarian stopped and stared at him. ‘And what do you mean by that?’

The Chaplain sighed, stood up and went to his chest. ‘Are these people important to you? Miklas? Dmitrija? Yeverick? Do you care about them?’

‘Of course I do!’ the other snapped.

‘And why?’

‘Because they are people! People we are meant to protect. They have always been with us, and they are still following us. If any of them die, we cannot get a new mortal. They are the only thing left for us…’

‘And now we are at the real problem,’ the Chaplain raised a finger. He reached into the chest and grunted with dissatisfaction.

‘It is still wet,’ he remarked. ‘No matter. As for you,’ he continued while taking his robe from the chest, ‘you are worried for them because you don’t have anything else left. We Astartes are not meant to exist on our own. We would turn renegade very easily that way. We need something to focus on, someone to protect.’

Akichi was taken aback. ‘And you think I am focussed on the mortals?’

‘Why not?’ the other asked back. ‘What else is there for you? You must find some stable point in your life, or you go mad, and you cannot exist in battle-condition because it would ruin you as it almost ruined me. You do remember what our future is set for us, don’t you?’

The Librarian slowly nodded. ‘We will fail,’ he said. ‘The Chapter will be destroyed… our brothers die… I will be the last Fatemaker.’ On a mortal’s face, the expression he was wearing may have been taken for fear. ‘I will travel back in time, and I will be killed by my past self.’

Uskovich winced. ‘With all of us dead and forgotten. You will be the last of us, and so far we have not seen anything that could prevent that future.’ He smiled sadly. ‘But if you have to be the last Fatemaker alive, all the other Fatemakers must die first.’

The two of them stared at each other. ‘This battle has the potential to destroy us,’ Uskovich murmured. ‘You will definitely survive, we know that for sure, but who else? If we die here or even get decimated here, the first half of the prophecy will come true. Then you only need a time-travelling accident,’ he added with a sarcastic expression, ‘and you may face yourself within a few days.’

A muscle twitched in the corner of the Librarian’s mouth. ‘So this is my motivation? No altruistic feelings, just a fear of change because it might destroy me?’

‘Maybe,’ the Chaplain shrugged. ‘Why else would you suddenly become so picky? Shouldn’t your Astartes conditioning prevent you from dwelling on things which may hinder our mission?’

Akichi slowly looked away.

‘I don’t want to end like that,’ he finally said. ‘I don’t want to look up the bolter muzzle of another Akichi. It was a mistake to kill myself, and now I wish I could prevent it.’

Uskovich studied the face of his friend. ‘Why did you do it, then? Why did you decide to shoot your future self? Was there really no other way to prove your dedication?’

The Librarian went to Uskovich’s bed with heavy steps. ‘There may have been,’ he admitted, ‘but I wanted to deny that future in the most drastic way possible.’


‘Because I believed I would have a higher purpose in life, and that the future my older self told us about was just a mistake.’ The Librarian sat down heavily on the bed. ‘I refused to believe that this was my lot in life.’

Now the two of them were reversed: the Chaplain was standing, looking down at the other, and the Librarian looked weak and desperate.

‘I witnessed the death of the Emperor, and I survived,’ Akichi said. ‘Can you imagine what a shock His death caused if another Segmentum felt it? I walked away from it, and I stayed sound enough to survive your exorcism after it.’ He shook his head wearily. ‘I could come up with no better explanation than that I was somehow chosen, that I would have some more purpose in life. And then I show up from the future and I tell Captain Malistrum that we are doomed and the only purpose I could find is to simply go back and tell ourselves about our failure – not because I wanted to warn us, but because I have done it once anyway and I might as well close the circle. There is no higher purpose in that.’

Silence descended on the two after Akichi’s speech.

‘The Emperor no longer protects,’ Uskovich finally started to talk. ‘I have been preaching in His name, secure in the knowledge that He is all powerful. It turned out… it turned out that He was just a man in the end. An incredibly powerful man, but a man nonetheless. We cannot venerate Him any longer because He is no longer an absolute.’

‘But we need an absolute in this world,’ he continued, ‘because the only absolute remaining now are the Gods of Chaos, and I will never acknowledge them. Not even if they win in the end. By now, everybody on this ship has found a new purpose, a new goal, a new god if you like. The crew found us. In fact, they have long abandoned the idea of His absoluteness, and replaced Him with us in their heart. You believed that you served a purpose, and your only remaining absolute was the ship and its crew. Not the Chapter, but this ship and the people aboard.’

The Librarian looked on, but he did not deny this.

‘The Captain has his mission. He needs it because the Chapter is no longer an absolute for him, and he cannot go on without a purpose. For this goal, he will sacrifice the rest of the crew if needed, and it is needed now. He can abandon the mission and lose faith once more or close his eyes to the plight of his people and use them knowing that the same people have long authorized him to do with their lives as he sees fit. They agreed to it a long time ago.’

After the Chaplain had finished his speech, Akichi shook his head. ‘This should not be the way,’ he said. ‘We could… stop.’


‘Abandon the mission.’ He stood up and faced the Chaplain. ‘We could dismantle the Chad-Okhlam, take everything we could use and let the reserve fleet go wherever it pleases. We could find some Imperial stronghold and fortify it. We would not need to die needlessly.’

The Chaplain made the tiniest of smiles. ‘And you would not have to live in a future where you would be killed by your younger self.’

‘Yes,’ Akichi snapped. ‘Yes, damn it, that’s exactly what I mean. I am no coward. I have faced terrible enemies, I have risked my very soul, I am going to risk it again if I have to. I will kneel and let the past Akichi kill me if I see the sense in it. But there is no sense any more. We have no god, we have no purpose. When I killed that other Akichi, it seemed like a sacrifice, an ultimatum to the Universe. Not it seems like suicide. I don’t want to die that way.’

‘This sounded very selfish,’ Uskovich remarked. He was now cool and observing, reminding the Librarian of the old, conditioned Chaplain.

‘It is,’ Akichi agreed, ‘but my selfishness would save lives now. We could still consolidate some part of the Galaxy. We could still have a purpose.’

There was some silence after that. The Chaplain closed his eyes and contemplated what Akichi had said, while the Librarian was waiting for his answer impatiently.

Finally, Uskovich opened his eyes and shook his head.

‘It is too late for anything else,’ he said. ‘Forget the fact that it would be hypocritical to abandon the mission now. We could have done so at Faramuntibus, in the Ogoliant Triangle, Saint Menthas, even in Cephola. We could have gone on to solve the Ablathea conflict. All these places needed us, but we never stopped. All right, we could stop now, start something new. I am telling you, the strike force would not survive a month past it.’

‘What do you…’ Akichi started, but the other did not let him finish.

‘Do you really think you are the only Astartes with problems? That I am the only Space Marine who suffered a mental breakdown? That Pelidor’s suicide was unique and it would not happen again? I am still a Chaplain, and I still have eyes. Dozens of our brothers are struggling to live on from day to day. We survived the Withdrawal, and our souls are as secure as they can be, but here,’ he knocked his forehead, ‘we have deep problems. Our god is gone, the world is doomed, our brothers are turning pirates or worse, and we have a prophesy from your own mouth which clearly states that we will fail. Captain Malistrum and the mission is what keeps them focussed. If they lose even that, we will fall apart.’

Akichi stood immobile. ‘Is it that bad?’

Uskovich nodded. ‘We can see the signs. Essen is arguing with half of the ship officers. Something is clearly eating Andorias inside. The Captain spends every free moment in his private room. He has a pict-recording of the ship, and he watches it day and night. No doubt he is trying to find a way to cheat our destiny. If we admit that we followed a flawed path so far, all these problems will come to the forefront. There will be suicides. Perhaps even murders. The crew will lose faith in us. We will have to oppress and cull them.’ He shook his head again. ‘No, our way is set. The Captain set us on when he decided to follow the reserve fleet, I set us on when I supported him, you set us on when you killed yourself, even the Chapter Master set us on when he abandoned us without explanation. We started to walk the circle, and I don’t think this is the point where we can leave.’

After a moment of hesitation, Akichi turned and went to the door. Before stepping out, he looked back once more.

‘You said everyone needs a definite in his life. What is yours?’

‘The Captain and his faith in the mission,’ Uskovich answered. ‘I no longer have faith of my own, but as long as he goes on, I will follow him.’

‘Would you sacrifice the crew in his stead?’

‘Without hesitation.’

Akichi nodded, and left. Uskovich fell back on his bed with a painful expression. His head started to hurt again.

‘May I have a moment of your time?’

Magos Brakk turned back and found himself facing Techmarine Guztav. They were in the main vehicle depot; dozens of various tanks and warmachines were standing along the walls, including a few Land Raiders, various Predator variants and even a Demolisher. The whole depot was busy. The entire vehicle reserve was to be deployed in the coming engagement – something which had not been required for almost seventy years – and the entire Mechanicus cadre and all the drivers were busy preparing and equipping them. There was noise and hurrying people everywhere, as a stark contrast to the silence and contemplation on most of the ship.

The Land Raider Magos Brakk was checking, however, was silent. Magos Brakk was the leader of all Mechanicus personnel aboard, and although nobody feared him, he had tremendous respect among his lesser brothers. Wherever he was, the others kept a respectful distance, which was why the Techmarine could approach him without being noticed in the first place.

‘Techmarine Guztav. I can direct attention towards you, but I cannot abandon my current duties,’ the Mechanicus leader said.

‘That will be sufficient,’ Guztav answered. He could always speak with the Magos a little easier than the other Astartes, mostly because he was a Mechanicus initiate himself. He took no offence when the Magos turned his upper body and head to face him, but his mechadendrites on his back were still working on the side panel of the Land Raider. He knew that the Magos was listening to what he had to say.

‘I have a crisis of faith,’ he admitted.

The mechadendrites of the Magos were moving at a leisurely pace.

‘Brother-Chaplain Uskovich is more suited to discussions about faith,’ he said.

‘Normally, I would turn to him,’ Cuztav said, ‘but my crisis concerns those Iron Men we had to fight aboard the Chad-Okhlam.’

The mechadendrites slowed down.

‘We may share similar impulses on that matter.’ His voice was perhaps a tad softer than usual.

‘They are soulless intelligence. They…’ He sighed. ‘I fight against the Ruinous Powers any day. I know I put my life and soul at risk, and I can accept that. But those things had no soul.’

‘No, they are not. They are everything our order opposes,’ Brakk agreed.

‘I have known similar things existed once,’ Guztav murmured, ‘but knowing about it is not the same as experiencing it.’

‘It is the difference between raw data and empirical evidence,’ Brakk said. ‘This is something even a Magos would do well to realize.’

‘We know nothing about the world around us.’ The Techmarine was looking straight into what he supposed were the eyes under the Magos’s hood. ‘Machines may exist without an organic sentience behind it. Time-travel is a possibility. The Emperor… the Omnissiah’s avatar…’ he swallowed. ‘If nothing in our life is true, what if there is no point in going on and suffering?’

The Magos’s mechadendrites stopped moving all together. ‘You are having a crisis of faith, Techmarine Guztav,’ he stated. ‘Although I still do not understand why you came to me with it. Have you lost faith in Brother-Chaplain Uskovich as well because his conditioning was broken?’

‘No,’ Guztav answered firmly. ‘I accept his judgement, but I know his reasons, and I doubt anybody has asked your opinion on the matter. When the Emperor died, it also meant that the personified Omnissiah died with Him as well. How did you take it?’

The Magos pulled his mechadendrites back under his red robe, and folded his real arms in front of his chest. ‘Technically, the Omnissiah encompasses all creation, and the Emperor was only a vessel of power,’ he said. ‘Nevertheless, you are right. When we confirmed the death of the Emperor, we held a separate noosphere conference with my brothers to re-assess the situation.’

‘And what did you find?’

‘Nothing. We were not prepared for such an eventuality.’

‘I was afraid that you would say that,’ Guztav sighed. ‘Did you make any decisions as to how you would continue after this?’

‘Yes. With the recent changes in our view of the world, we have to adhere to the two principles which remained untouched.’

‘What are those two principles?’

‘Mankind and the continued existence of the Chapter. Mankind survived the Emperor, although the observed social and psychological changes after the Extinction are not promising. It is even more imperative, then, that we work for our current goals: to link up with the reserve fleet and start rebuilding as much of the Imperium as we can.’

Guztav hesitantly rubbed his forehead.

‘Are these goals enough?’

The Magos stepped closer to him. ‘We are all essentially human,’ he said, ‘even if we tech-priests tend to forget it. I have just observed the consequences of abandoning humanity, and I am convinced that the future these Iron Men offer is just as bad as the possible victory of the Ruinous Powers. As men, we are prone to despair when facing insurmountable odds. As a Magos of the Adeptus Mechanicus, I can look at our current odds and realize how low our chances of success are. I could make rudimentary projections about all the possible outcomes of the Extinction, and even though we do not know all the variables, the figures would show the same every time. Our species will go extinct.’

‘Then why fight on?’ Guztav asked.

‘Because chances can be improved,’ the answer came. ‘The Extinction proved that the Emperor was not omnipotent, yet He was able to hold the Imperium together for almost twelve millennia. We do not have His talent, but we would be able to hold parts of it together for a while. It may be another ten thousand years, a thousand year or perhaps only a hundred. The length is irrelevant at this point.’

The Magos made a gesture with his real hand towards the rest of the depot. ‘The chances of Mankind surviving alone are below five per cent,’ he said, ‘but the chances of winning this battle are above fifty per cent and the chances of finding useful information about the reserve fleet is more than seventy. Those chances are good. Your Fatemaker brothers have a general motto which is appropriate in our present situation. You want to give people a fighting chance. I understand that goal, and so I can still work for it, even in a godless Galaxy. We know the Universe itself will eventually die, but it will happen so far in the future that it does not concern us. We also know that Mankind will die out eventually, but we can prolong it so far that it would not concern the current generation of people. There is nothing else that could be expected from us.’

Guztav pondered over this. ‘Would that be enough?’ he finally asked.

‘There is nothing else,’ Brakk said. ‘I know that I do not want to exist in a world where either the Warp or a soulless intelligence consumes my species. You Astartes refuse both these fates, and so I will fight for you.’

Guztav slowly nodded. ‘Thank you for your time, Magos.’ He turned away when something came to his mind. ‘How far would you go to secure the future you prefer?’

‘All the way,’ the Magos answered.

Mediator Dmitrija appeared at the door exactly at the appointed moment, where, to his great surprise, he found Captain Malistrum waiting for him.

‘My lord,’ he bowed.

‘We can leave the formality, I think,’ the Astartes Captain waved with his hand. His voice seemed to be somewhat weaker than usual, although Dmitrija could not be sure, especially in his current state. ‘I read the reports and I found out that you have been chosen.’

‘I have, my lord,’ Dmitrija nodded.

Malistrum looked at him with sad eyes. ‘I cannot make an exception,’ he said. ‘Not even in your case.’

‘I understand that, my lord,’ Dmitrija said. He was pale, he knew, but the Captain did not mention it.

‘Still, I wanted to talk to you before you enter. Do you know what is expected of you?’

Dmitrija slowly nodded.

‘Have you been informed about all aspects of this change?’

There came another, somewhat slower nod.

Malistrum sighed. ‘You have been serving the Chapter and Mankind faithfully, Mediator,’ he said. ‘You did not shy away now either. I cannot say ‘thank you’ for this because it is expected of you to make even this sacrifice if necessary.’

‘Yes, my lord.’ Dmitrija was whispering now.

Malistrum places his hand on his shoulder. ‘I wanted to tell you that you have always fulfilled your duties expertly and faithfully. The Chapter will not forget what you will do for us today.’

The two of them were standing immobile for a while. The Captain was almost twice as tall as the Mediator, and almost twice as bulky as well. Dmitrija looked like a child with Malistrum holding his shoulder in his gauntleted hand.

The two men had never seemed so apart from each other than at this moment.

‘Go,’ Malistrum finally said and pushed Dmitrija towards the door.

‘Yes, my lord,’ he murmured softly as he went in.

The Apothecarion seemed a lot colder today than usually. An Apothecary was waiting for him with a hooded Mechanicus servitor and Chaplain Uskovich. The two Astartes were masked.

‘You are late,’ the Apothecary said.

‘I was talking outside with Lord Malistrum,’ Dmitrija retorted.

The two Astartes looked at each other. ‘Are you prepared?’ the Apothecary finally asked.

The temperature dropped even lower, and somehow the voices became more muffled in Dmitrija’s ears. ‘I am.’

He knew what was expected of him. He knelt down in front of Chaplain Uskovich, who opened the book in his hand to confess him. Dmitrija listened, trying to block out the noises made by the Apothecary and his assistant as they arranged the instruments on the operating plate.

Imperator nobis, qui nos protegit…

Small craft hangars aboard the Opportunity

598 days after the Emperor’s death

Miklas was standing next to his Land Raider and watched the various fighting groups embarking into their spacecraft.

The Opportunity would stay quite empty, he dimly remarked. In all the years of his service, he had never seen such a gathering before. Every Space Marine would be deployed with Thunderhawks and Caestus boarders as well as all the armour and every other human auxiliary. His own vehicle had already been attached to a Landing Craft with three others, waiting to be carried down onto the surface.

It would not be an easy fight, he knew that. The enemy would realize that a hostile force was approaching them. They were too well equipped with sensors, and although Sergeant Essen’s scouts could penetrate their lines, they would be alerted to so many people, especially now that the Opportunity was moving towards them as well. A direct confrontation was the only answer.

A direct confrontation needed a lot of warm bodies, and the Fatemakers now had it in abundance. Miklas had seen the Ogres in their cumbersome power armours climbing into a separate vessel, and he had seen the ship’s human soldiery waiting for their turn at the back of the hangar. He had seen whole squads of Space Marines equipped with various heavy weapons, he had seen bulky Terminators and Assault Marines with their jet-packs, mostly already sent down the surface to clear the landing zone; he had caught a glimpse through the shield-protected open hangar gates of the various fighter craft as they made a preliminary descent to the planet in case there was any initial resistance down there.

He cared about none of that. He had been waiting for the group which had just arrived. He reached into his shirt and bit in his lips.

The Mechanicus contingent was now the most numerous fighting force in Strike Force Four. They had the Magi and their old servitors, of course, but even the mighty adepts needed foot-soldiers in such an engagement, and Captain Malistrum had given them what they needed to accomplish this.

Protocol Omega Point Four was not a subtle one. The Astartes needed a big and capable fighting force, and they got it. An average human needed at least six weeks of training just to learn how to maintain his gear and how to perform at least rudimentary fighting action. They also needed experience so they would not break at the first sight of an enemy.

The adepts did not have six weeks. They did have, however, the technology and experience to modify the brain of an average human. Reaction time could be shortened, better aiming could be achieved and even survival instincts could be dimmed with the right implant – or through tinkering with or even removing the parts of the body which were not deemed necessary in battle conditions.

The Mechanicus contingent had outdone itself in the past eight days. They successfully servitorized more than one thousand one hundred humans in just a little more than a week. These people were selected based on their medical data, and they were modified with the precision and speed of a Factorum assembly line of a major forge world.

Servitors were usually not made so quickly. Creating so many complete servitors would have taken almost as much time as the training of these people. Cutting time had its separate price, of course: the operation was completely irreversible, and the subjects’ body would reject the implants in almost any case. Even if the implants had worked in the long run, the nerve system of the patients and the wiring in the implants were not fused perfectly. In one more week, these semi-servitors would al experience glitches and faulty motor functions, and in another week, they would all die.

The subjects knew about this. The Fatemakers had always been frank about the dangers awaiting for their servants. Even so, none of the humans had objected when they had been told what was expected of them.

How could they object? Their gods had spoken.

Miklas tensed. The servitors went past him. They looked terrible; not because they had signs of the operation – they had received helmets and body armour which concealed any possible scars – but because their face lacked any emotion or even remote sign of life. The Mechanicus might as well have led dead people into battle.

Miklas finally saw him. His heart missed a beat.

His son did not recognise him. He did not even make any reaction: he simply marched on with the others, treating his own father as if he had been a piece of lifeless equipment in the hangar.

Miklas looked after the marching servitors until he heard the signal calling for his unit; he was grabbing the soulstone under his shirt as if he was trying to gain strength from it – or wishing to throw it away. Then he turned and crawled up into his vehicle to fight the battle of his masters – a battle which he personally had already lost.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 52)

Postby librisrouge » Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:10 pm

Dude, tell me you write professionally. Even on the side or something. That was heart breaking at the end. I've read several novels that tried to reach the depth of emotion that you hit and failed. Keep up the good work. This and Age of Dusk are the reasons I come to this site.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 52)

Postby Midgard » Tue Sep 10, 2013 3:46 am

What librisrouge said. I love this - the writing quality can easily stand against most Black Library (and non-BL) authors. Great job!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 52)

Postby Gaius Marius » Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:49 pm

Holy crap.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 52)

Postby Meaneye » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:58 pm

Wow. Thanks a lot, guys. There are still some parts left of the story, and I hope you will enjoy them as much as the previous ones. Let's start these new updates with some heavy fighting :D

Khadmus IV heretic excavation site

600 days after the Emperor's death

Dawn brought the sounds, smell, lights and low rumbles of war to the heretic Mechanicus camp.

The Fatemakers had made a last gamble before the engagement, and they had decided to launch their aircraft with the rising sun behind them. The enemy had more modern equipment than the naked eye, of course, but this battle was too delicately balanced to let go of even the slightest advantage. Aquilas, Thunderhawks and a few Lightning models went in first and bombed the outskirts of the camp. The explosions did not seem to do a lot of damage, and the enemy answered with anti-aircraft guns and a squadron of their own Lightnings. The Fatemaker planes veered and pulled their pursuers away from the camp. This was a tactical mistake from the part of the Mechanicus as the Fatemakers had a few fighters in reserve , circling a mile from the original attack point. Between the new planes and the seemingly retreating vessels, the Lightnings were caught in a crossfire. The aerial battle was still raging when the second wave of the attack was launched: a squad of the Opportunity’s own space fighters dived into the atmosphere and raked the outer defence lines with their own heavier weapons.

All this was a diversion. Malistrum had no intention of trying the might of his air-force against the enemy. However, while the Mechanicus was busy shooting upwards, the main Fatemaker host could approach the camp under the cover of the rocky hills which covered the whole area.

The enemy detected the land forces as well. They had sophisticated sensors, and their spaceship was orbiting above them: they could gather information of the entire hemisphere if necessary. They saw the Fatemakers host approach in two waves, with armour and transport moving between them. The heretics pounded them with artillery fire, and their sensors showed them pleasing results: the first line faltered, and the shells decimated the Fatemaker vehicles. The heretics re-directed their fire at a pair of super-heavy transports which shook off the few hits they received in the first volley.

This was also a diversion. The heretics had eyes in the air, and they saw the approaching vessels, but they failed to see them for what they were. The Fatemakers had been collecting various military vehicles since their foundation. Their very nature rebelled against leaving behind something useful, recyclable on a battlefield, and so they had collected and repaired whatever piece of machinery had fallen in their hands. Most of them were useless for Astartes warriors, but they could fill in a special role during a massive engagement. With reinforced plates welded on them and servitor drivers built into their driving compartment, they were the very definition of a fire magnet. The crown jewel of the diversion was a pair of Gorgons, which the Fatemakers had collected after a joint action with a Krieg regiment. Both of these monstrous hulks were built to withstand a tremendous amount of punishment, and, as it happened, both of them were running without passengers.

The foot-soldiers in the first wave mostly consisted of the strike force’s industrial and menial servitors as well as a good portion of the freshly operated human crew of the Opportunity. The older servitors had been chosen for this task because they were not fit for military action: some of the had appendages which made them ideally suited for welding, lifting heavy objects or screwing panels together, but it would have taken too much time to fit them with new limbs. Others had too limited programming and too little brain matter to be able to receive new sets of order for this mission. The newer servitors were those people whose body had begun to reject the implants a lot faster than expected. The operation failed in their cases: some of them were already moving erratically, and they were all, without exception already dieing, mere days after leaving the surgery. They were ideal cannon fodder material, and their Astartes masters used them in the only ay they could: meat shield for those people who still had a slight chance of fighting and surviving in this battle.

The real fighters were marching in the second land wave. This was a calculated risk from the part of the Fatemaker commander, but Malistrum had been reasoning that the heretic Mechanicus force would be, by its very nature, relying on logic and statistics that they would most certainly concentrate on the bigger, more immediate threat and ignore the stragglers until the very last moment. He was right. By the time one of the Gorgons was broken up by concentrated shellfire, the second wave approached the outskirts of the camp and readied itself for battle.

The hills were loud with explosions, and the air was already hazy from the fat, greasy smoke columns coming from the ruined buildings. Some of the smoke came from Fatemaker aircraft which had been shot down in the initial phase of the attack. The rest of the Fatemaker vessels were driven off, and they were now engaged with the heretic aircraft south-west of the battle. Dozens of vehicles were destroyed, the superheavies were faltering and the attackers had already lost hundreds of people. None of this mattered in the end: although they had to pay a heavy price, the Fatemakers had managed to deploy almost the entirety of their real forces, intact and relatively unharmed.

The sounds of war did not penetrate the small chamber aboard the Caestus. First of all, the vessel was covered by thick layers of metal; second, the Caestus was designed to fly in cold vacuum. Her oversized engines were in no way sound-proof, and their aggressive rumble blocked out any other noise anyway.

None of that noise found its way to Sergeant Andorias’s mind. He was standing at the front ramp of the left compartment, ready to jump out at a moment’s notice. His conditioned mind was already busy assessing the possible dangers and attack routes he had to be wary of once he had been deployed. His hand had a firm grip on his chainsword, and his body was rocking only slightly to counterbalance the lurches and shakes of the aircraft.

A small part of his mind did not take part in the pre-battle preparations. A few years ago, in another life, he would have been busy murmuring one of the battle litanies of the Fatemakers, no doubt one emphasizing the devotion and obeisance towards the God-Emperor of Mankind. Now the Emperor was dead, and the Fatemakers abandoned the religious rituals, he found he had a few stolen moments for himself too. With his new freedom, a sullen mood had come as well, and he was only now beginning to realize what burden independence really was.

This was a burden he did not have to carry long. Once he had made up his mind, he found things to be easier again. He would have his closure this day with his former friend, Essen. He would find him in the midst of all the carnage, he would look into his eye, and he would reveal what he had learned from the lips of the one man he trusted and followed unconditionally. He would make him understand, and he would open his eyes to the truth. And then…

Then he would die.

‘Prepare for engagement,’ a toneless voice warned him and his men. ‘We are approaching primary deployment zone.’

So we can debark at the original target, he said to himself. That was good. The main host had then managed to call the enemy’s attention away from the flanks of the excavation site. The Fatemaker plan was a little more complex than a simple frontal attack from the south against the centre of the enemy camp. Captain Malistrum had devised a three-pronged with roughly equal forces in the centre and the two flanks, although the decoys were solely deployed in the middle. With any luck, the heretics would be caught completely unaware by the two strong attacks from the east and the west.

This plan had three flaws, however, and all three of them were called Warhound. The strike force could have beaten the three Titans on their own, but with the support of a heretic host behind them, these warmachines were unbeatable. There was a separate plan to neutralize them, but it was a costly one, and it involved too much of the term ‘sacrificial units.’ Even in victory, Strike Force Four would be crippled beyond salvation, unless some of the specialist units performed beyond their expected duty and disabled the Titans on their own.

Sergeant Andorias was one of these specialists; in fact, he was the only one in the strike force who had actually destroyed a Titan before. That feat had been a combination of quick wits, luck and good timing, and its repetition also required great skills with the jump packs. Currently, Andorias possessed that mixture of qualities, which was why he had been charged with that task in the first place.

I need you to do it, Captain Malistrum had told him at the end of the mission briefing. Noone else can do it. Lives will depend on you.

See, Essen? Andorias thought. See how useful I am? You are not the only one who is that good at something.

His head hurt again, and he forced himself out of his revelry. He needed to focus on this assignment, because desperation or not, he would fulfil this mission before he would start looking for the Scout-Sergeant.

How could he have refused? Malistrum had spoken. He had faith in him.

‘Ten seconds,’ the voice warned them. The Caestus had been making a long sloping curve in the air, starting with a freefall as the vessel had been released from the Opportunity’s dock, which had slowly turned into a horizontal flight. Her engines did not accelerate her to maximum speed: if they had, the boxy spacecraft would have been able to punch through the adamantium hull of a spaceship, which in on the ground would have amounted to punching through the entire camp, destroying all buildings in her flying path.

The Fatemakers needed the buildings mostly intact, at least in the centre of the camp to look for information about their looted sister ship. This meant not orbital bombardment, not macro-weaponry but infantry charges against a heavily modified Mechanicus host and their three Titan assistants. This also meant that Sergeant Andorias would have to attack one of those Titans in his assault armour.

Andorias was not that occupied with his thoughts to forget to count down. Just as he was reaching ‘two,’ he lunched forward. At ‘one,’ he activated his jump-pack, even as the ramp was beginning to open and the cacophony of explosions and small-arms fire invaded the compartment. His jump pack pushed him forward, out of the Caestus and into the open air.

As he had left the vessel, he veered down immediately. The bulk of the Caestus whizzed past, although she immediately started to turn sharp to the right. The rest of Squad Andorias jumped out as well, only to disperse and land all over the area. It could not be helped. This kind of deployment was more akin to a drop-pod landing in subtlety than a Thunderhawk debarking, but at least it allowed the Caestus to arrive at all. With so many targets in the air, Andorias, who had arrived the closest to the original destination, also had a moment to assess his surroundings without making too big a risk.

One of his squad-mates was not so lucky. The Assault Marine literally exploded from the inside out, spitting chunks of metal, blood and innards into the air. Most of his inside left him in one particular direction, which allowed his sergeant to calculate the angle from which the murderous shot had been fired.

He forced every ounce of pushing power from his engines a he darted towards the roof-top with an enemy fire-team on it. His unconscious Astartes mind was registering the layout of the battle: the centre Fatemaker line had lost its decoys, but otherwise they were engaging; the outermost buildings were already burning and collapsing under the relentless shooting, and the air was just a criss-cross of tracer fires, red-hot solid slugs and energy beams. None of them mattered as much as the enemy team who had managed to kill one of his brothers with their lucky hit.

Andorias was too fast for the fire-team to shoot him. He did not draw weapons; he did not reach for his own bolt pistol or the additional plasma gun strapped to his left thigh. He merely put his fists in front of him as he crashed into the heretics.

Assault Space Marines were elite shock troops, and not because of their fighting prowess. Most people did not realize that an eight foot tall, hulking man clad in a solid ceramite armour and moving at a speed almost sufficient to break the sound barrier was a living rocket in himself. The force with which he hit them was greater than a bomb explosion. He caught one of the men in the chest, killing and vaporizing him instantly, but that was nothing compared to what he did to the rest of them or the building itself.

The men died at the impact and became irrelevant at that instant. The roof, not designed to withstand such force, broke as well, and he punched through diagonally, making a hole in the top floor exploding out of the building’s wall a floor lower. He sucked out a large portion of the building itself through the hole, and the weapon the team had used exploded as well, wrecking the rooftop for good. He never saw the explosion. He went on and crashed into the side of the adjacent building, and although he managed to make a dent in that too, at least it managed to stop him. He instinctively switched off his jump pack, then he fell another two floors onto the ground.

It took him seventeen seconds to move again. By that time, a trio of hooded enemies were rushing towards him, spitting electronic bursts of noise in his direction. They were grabbing power-cutters in their hands, and they seemed actually dangerous enough to kill Andorias unless he managed to resist.

He had no intention of fighting on their terms, though. Still somewhat woozy from the fall, he drew his bolt pistol, and he felled two of them with a couple of hastily-aimed shots. The third managed to get within striking distance, and he burst out in triumphant binary as he raised his power cutter above his head.

Him, the Sergeant gutted with his chainsword, and stumbled away as he fell on the ground. Andorias shook his head. The dizziness was quickly fading as his extra organs assisted in regaining his balance. The sound of the battle was surrounding him now, but he was alone and safe for the time being.

He intended to change that. He started to run down the street, looking for any potential threat. He had a Titan to kill.

And then an Astartes too.

So this is warfare, Magos Brakk thought.

The venerable Mechanicus leader was walking on foot behind the second infantry line in the centre Fatemaker forces. He had not taken a vehicle, he was not carried atop some antiquated palanquin, nor was he hovering in the air by means some arcane technology. His rank would have entitled him to any of the above and even more; in fact, he knew that most of his peers usually chose even more exotic means of transport when given the chance. He could have also stayed aboard the Opportunity if he had wished, not out of fear but of necessity, preparing the ship for the inevitable orbital battle. He did not choose that option either. His presence was useful here, but he had a more basic reason why he had decided to lead the main host personally.

He wanted to experience war in person.

Just a few days earlier, he had been talking to Techmarine Guztav about the importance of empirical evidence. The Astartes warrior had experienced a crisis of faith, and his judgement was clouded. The Magos never talked about it, but he had his own crisis as well. He had lost his god in the past two years, just like the Imperium had, and although he had no emotional response of the Omnissiah's death, the mere fact that such a thing could happen shattered his belief in the logical nature of the Universe. He needed to build up his faith and his convictions on new grounds, and he needed to experience the world around him again, this time from new viewpoints.

This battle was the perfect opportunity for new experience. As a high-ranking adept, it had never been required of him to walk the battlefields, not even when he was a mere novice. Mending the Warp-engines of the Imperial battlefleets had been his duty, and he had become really good at it. He had other skills as well: machine spirit coding, servitor coordination and general logistics, all by-products of a lifetime spent on warships.

He also had the ability to control this host in battle, although this was not the reason why Brother-Captain Malistrum had accepted his request and sent him down here. The enemy was bound to launch another noosphere attack, and the venerable Magos would have to be ready to repel them with his machine spirit expertese.

If he survived the physical battle...

The Fatemaker host advanced in a three-men-deep line, leaving their fallen comrades and the burning wreckage of their decoy vehicles behind. The first buildings were ahead of them; most of them were also blasted and wrecked by the ferocious air-strike which had opened the engagement. Sporadic fire from the top floors felled a few advancing servitors, but everybody knew that this was not the biggest challenge waiting for them.

The enemy appeared as the Fatemaker reached the outermost building. Like a tide of tar, the black mass of the heretic soldiers swept past the inner hab-blocks and formed a solid dense line in front of them. There were standard skitarii warriors among them as well as the same Metal Men Sergeant Andorias had found on the Chad-Okhlam. Most of them were grabbing some sort of guns with a copious amount of other, more exotic weapons. Lascannons, plasma guns and solid slug-firing autocannons were aimed at the Fatemakers; some were held by hand or other metal appendages, while others were built into implant-ridden servitors. The first ordeal of Strike Force Four would start here and now.

'Open fire,' Magos Brakk blurted in binary.

The air split open. The ground shook. The sound of all weapons fired on both sides at the same time hit the fighters a mere fraction of a second before the ammunitions themselves arrived. Bullets, las- and plasma beams criss-crossed wildly in the air, while more bulky, visible rockets and similar projectiles drew smoky lines as they darted towards the most congested parts of the two lines. People fell like flies. The front line of both groups seemed to be melting as the shots started to kill, and the larger explosions threw corpses, weapon parts and body fluids above the combatants.

This was the empirical evidence the Magos had been talking. He had been aware that actual war was chaotic and messy, but he had never been in the middle of it. The amount of firepower which both sides were employing was staggering, easily the equal of several Titan-class macro-weapons. All the shooting in such a limited area dulled all senses, the five traditional ones and even the otherwise smooth noosphere perception. He felt the forces unleashed on his skin, in his area; the flashes burned into his retina, and the air itself changed taste and smell in a few heartbeats.

Worse of all, it made precise calculations impossible. The Magos did not have enough emotions left in him to say that he hated uncertainty; instead, he felt uncomfortable and disoriented when he was not able to process and react to outside information. He did what he could: he instructed his servitor host to sweep over the enemy with their own firing at the widest possible angle, aiming the specialized weapons at the most dangerously looking cluster of heavy weapon troops, but he felt it was not enough. The enemy was doing the same, and his personal shield was already seriously strained by the amount of incoming fire, which he was sure was not even aimed directly at him. He was unable to guess the strength of the enemy force, but he could make an estimate at his own troops and the speed at which they were perishing.

The figures were not good. The Fatemaker host would be able to maintain the current firepower for another one minute and sixteen seconds, at which point they would start to falter: if the enemy could keep up their own firing, this prong of the attack would be completely eradicated within another two minutes and fifty-four seconds. Whatever plan the attached specialists had on mind, they had to execute it before these time limits.

‘In the building! Go, go!’

Scout-Sergeant Essen could remember the last time he had been forced to shout his orders. His scouts had always operated in silence, communicating with curt sentences or even in codes of clicks and scratching noises through their vox-pieces. His regular scouts were not with him today, however. They were too much needed all around the attack lines, so he had done the necessary thing and divided them among the various attack groups. He was running with the initiates now: young people still under training, the last batch of them recruited mere weeks before the Extinction from the Belandon war-zone.

The young ones had not received most of their implants yet, certainly not the Black Carapace, but they were equipped with superior weapons just like the rest of the strike force. They had master-crafted boltguns, with an extra hellgun strapped on their backs in case they ran out of ammunition; on top of that, the two most reliable of them – an older initiate almost ready to become a real Astartes and a young Belandon conscript named Loriant – were clutching melta-weapons. Essen could only hope that they would perform as needed during the battle, although he had to admit, so far they had not been broken yet. He was still afraid that he would need to support them with his firepower, not the other way round, but there was nothing he could do about it. Everyone fought in this battle, ready or not.

Somebody was shooting at them from the top window, and the scouts tried to disperse. ‘Move on!’ Essen yelled, and they obeyed; they were too well conditioned and trained to ignore the voice of a drill instructor. Essen himself did not move on. He took the time to aim for a heartbeat and fire his semi-Exitus rifle at the enemy shooter.

His reward for this was a grazing hit which tore into his left cheek, but he had already made his own shot. He did not even wait to see the shape disappear from the window. He was good enough to know that he had just made a kill-shot, and it would have been suicidal to stay in the open for longer.

The scouts were crouching by the wall. ‘Melt the door!’ he shouted again, and the two melta-wielding scouts obligingly released two bursts of super-heated air into the plascrete door-panel. Essen saw with approval that they had the sense to sweep with their guns, melting the two sides of the door-frame and boiling anyone who might have been hiding there. Two other scouts burst into the building to secure the entrance.

‘Inside,’ Essen barked, and the group of scouts ran in. The inside of the building was unlit, and the whole interior was shaking. The two hosts outside had started to shoot at each other, and suddenly the sound of explosions drowned al other noise. Even in a relatively secure cover, Essen felt the ground vibrate from all the impacts.

‘Up!’ the entrance opened onto a staircase with no other way through so the scouts took it. Essen was running at the front. He put the semi-Exitus into his left hand, and he took a bolter in his right. He did not mind either of the guns, not even inside a building, but the ammunition for the sniper-rifle was more valuable, while the bolt-gun held more ammunition. He proved himself right by shooting the pair of dark shapes which appeared on the top of the stairs. They hardly began to fall on the ground when Essen sped up. His body got overflowed by a massive jolt of adrenalin. He stopped running and leapt instead, up the top of the stairs. He punched another enemy off the stairs at the feet of his approaching scouts and darted forward.

The top floor was a long corridor with several closed doors on one side. Essen shot another man standing at the corridor, then switched his bolter to rapid fire and emptied half the magazine into the first door. The adrenaline was still working in him so he felt no pain when he rushed at the weakened door and broke through it.

He immediately slammed into someone. The two of them fell, but the other body still provided cover for him for a second, which allowed him to assess the surroundings. There were five people in the room: all skitarii in flak armour, all hefting hellguns aiming at him. Essen let go of his semi-Exitus, and broke the neck of his enemy with his left hand. He had no more time to think. He hosed the rest of them with his bolter, and the figures moved: some of them toppled and fell, while others merely tried to evade his shots. Two of the still managed to fire, although they were no longer aiming at him.

A new bolter added its noise to the cacophony of killing, and soon all other sounds were dulled by the loud hiss of a melta weapon. Essen’s conscious mind switched off as he continued firing. His gun soon clicked empty, and the noise inside the room faded.

The skitarii were dead. Essen pushed himself up to his elbows, looked back and he found himself staring into the empty and emotionless face of one of his scouts. The lad had got so many hellgun shots he was pushed against the wall, and he stayed there in death, sitting with his back against the wall, his legs spread-eagled. Loriant and another scout were standing at the door. Both of them were heaving, but while the second scout was merely staring at his fallen friend, the Belandon boy was gripping his meltagun firmly, fixing his eyes back on the corridor.

There were some fighting sounds coming from the other rooms, but Essen could not wait until the scouts cleared those as well. ‘Stay away from the window,’ he hissed. He did not follow his own order: he crawled under the window, slowly went on his knees and took a small mirror with a handle from a pocket on his belt.

There were other solutions to peep out of a window safely, but they mostly involved electronics, and Essen could not afford any technology which the heretics may have detected. He pushed the mirror above the ledge of the window, and took a peek at the reflection.

It was as he thought. The enemy was standing in a rough battle-line, and they were intent on out-shooting the Fatemaker host with their own weapons. Essen had no idea if they could do it, but he knew that even a successful firefight would cripple the servitor cadre permanently. There were still three Titans to deal with later on, and losses were to be avoided.

Which meant he had to risk his neck. He spent ten full seconds observing the enemy line: ten seconds, none of which the host could afford. He finally found what he was looking for: a lonely, robed figure standing alone behind the line of soldiers in the protective circle of the now familiar Metal Men. A coordinator, no doubt, and he was also undoubtedly shielded, just like Magos Brakk was.

Essen sat down, and opened the chamber of the semi-Exitus. ‘Get out,’ he told his scouts as he pushed three special rounds in the chamber. He triggered the gun, and exhaled deeply to clean his system of the last traces of adrenaline. Then, as he calmed down and regained complete control over his minuscule motor reflexes, as his scouts ran out of the room and as the Fatemaker host started to buckle under the impact of the enemy fire, he stood up and shot three times through the window.

All three rounds were special. The first was electro-statically charged; the common name for it was the ‘shield-popper,’ and it did just what it was supposed to. The shield of the heretic Magos blinked and fizzled out for a second on impact. The other two rounds were explosive. It may have been an overkill, but these heretic Magi were tough and had surprising technology, so Essen did not take any risk. He was right in that matter, too: the first round exploded upon the surface of the personal shield which re-formed much faster than the Sergeant had anticipated. It still managed to bring the weakened shield down, though, so the last round did just what it was supposed to do and blew the Magos’s head clean off.

Essen knew what was about to happen. With their coordination suddenly lost, the enemy host would act according to their pre-coded orders, the most important of which would be to ensure the safety of their leader. The Magos was dead, but the host could still respond by doing what the piratical, predatory mentality of their masters programmed into them: by avenging their fallen lord.

Essen kicked himself away from the window. His leg-muscles were as strong as any Space Marine’s, and he could leap back half-way into the room. The wall in front of him disintegrated. Energy beams and solid bullets riddled the inside of the room, which became bright with lights and shadowy with the smoke and falling masonry at the same time.

Then a couple of rockets slammed into the building, and it completely disappeared in a column of dust and fire.

Magos Brakk saw the change in the enemy host’s attitude immediately. They changed target as one, and started to destroy the building on the right flank of the Fatemaker battle-line. The strength of their firepower was ferocious, but Brakk saw that there was no longer any coordination in it. The enemy host had changed from a united, single entity with many guns into a large group of individuals shooting single guns.

This was more than enough for him. ‘Resume fire,’ he blurted, and the Fatemakers let off another volley.

Essen landed on his back and cried as splinters from the front wall peppered the room and penetrated his skin in at least a dozen places. He did not have the time to get up. He crawled backwards on is elbows as the world became one single howling shriek around him. His senses were overloaded immediately, and the Sergeant had to rely on his century-long battle instincts to carry him out of the collapsing room into the corridor.

Hands grabbed him from behind, and pulled him back. His senses returned and he saw that the scouts ran back for him. They probably saved his life, too: there was so much smoke in the room that it appeared solid, and the sound of the firing outside was still unbearably loud. It took a moment for the Sergeant to realize that most of the shooting was now coming from his left and right, not in front of him.

‘March forward,’ Magos Brakk ordered, and the Fatemaker servitors started to walk towards the enemy line. The heretics on the other side were fractured at this point, and their return fire lacked the strength, but Brakk’s intention was clear. Nobody was to survive. His servitors were maintaining a steady pace as they pushed the remnants of the enemy back into the camp, scything and mowing them down with more and more ease. This fight had been won, but the Magos was aware of the price. The ground behind the battle-line was littered with the charred remains of all the dead the heretic fire had killed. The Fatemakers lost half of their servitors and more than a third of their total manpower in a single, five-minute engagement.

Essen was limping from door to door to ensure that all his scouts were collected. They had lost four people all together: two in the firefight with the guards and two when half the building collapsed on their head. The Sergeant himself was covered in blood. He was wounded, mostly on his stomach and legs, but his system had already started to heal him. He would recover and fight on.

The last room had its outer wall and ceiling blown off, but the dust had mostly cleared away. Essen went behind what was left of the wall and risked a peek over it. He saw that what was left of the enemy host was being herded by the Fatemaker servitors backwards, and he knew that they could be dealt with easily now. There were several greasy smoke columns around the camp as the other two prongs penetrated the outer defences and started to put the pressure on the heretics. He looked around if he saw any trace of the three Warhounds, but they were nowhere to be seen. Essen frowned, but he could not ponder over them. A sudden flash in the middle of the camp drew his attention, and he saw four parallel beams of light leap upwards. The orbital cannons, he thought, and he looked up.

Above him in the sky, a new star lit up, strong enough to be visible in broad daylight.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 53)

Postby librisrouge » Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:17 pm

Well written sir. Enjoying the work. Please keep it up.
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Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:55 pm

Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 53)

Postby Meaneye » Sun Oct 27, 2013 12:32 am

Huhh. A month later, but here is the new update :roll: .

'Keep distance,' Malistrum calmly ordered, and the crew obeyed. The ship was shaking and groaning around them; it was difficult to keep focus and their Captain was immensely proud of them. Just a few days earlier, the same crew had encountered the very same enemy they were fighting now, and the serfs on the bridge had been under much more strain now. Still, they stood their ground and concentrated on their wok with admirable efficiency.

The world around them was on fire. The ship was on low orbit, and the crescent of the planet should have been dominating the view, but it was difficult to see anything over the reddish glow. Malistrum had ordered the Opportunity to dive into the atmosphere of the planet, merely to call attention away from the surface battle to his ship. It worked. The atmosphere friction caused the air to heat up around the ship, resulting in a great fireball which was possibly visible from the entire hemisphere. The enemy Vetrix vessel, which had so far been content to sit above the excavation site, had finally moved and started to rise towards the Opportunity, while the surface batteries opened fire and cut into the Fatemaker vessel’s underbelly with their long beams.

The shields held, and the ship was battle-worthy. This was the only thing that mattered, and although the deck under the crew was trembling and the ship shrieked in agony, Malistrum’s control remained firm – over the vessel and her human occupants.

‘Has the Pearl shown any activity?’ he asked.

‘No, my lord,’ a serf answered. ‘No energy signature and no movement so far.’

Then this is how far we can wait, Malistrum thought and looked out of the viewport. Even over the red haze of the burning atmosphere, a metallic glint was visible in the distance, unmoving and silent. It was the Pearl of Malakash, the Rouge Trader vessel which was the third peak of the triangle which constituted this tale. It seemed that the enemy had only taken the vessel, but they had not utilized and crewed it yet, which was good. The ship possibly contained information about the fate of the other Fatemaker vessel, the Chad-Okhlam, which had been destroyed in this system mere weeks earlier. Malistrum cold have destroyed both vessels, but he needed information first and foremost, and he could not have got it from a smouldering wreck. This way, he only had to wreck one ship today.

He was working on it, but it would not be easy. The main weapon of Vertix had proven to be ineffective against the Opportunity, and Malistrum doubted that they would re-code their machine-spirits to bypass the Fatemaker systems more readily, but the surface batteries were a real treat. Even this high in orbit, the ship felt the hits, which were tearing into the shields with increasing ferocity. Right now, the Opportunity was directing all available energy into the shields, even from the weapon systems. Try to fight, direct energy from the shields, and the enemy would blast through them to carve up the ship; stay here long enough, and the same thing would happen, no matter how much energy Malistrum pumps into the shields. The surface batteries were left up to the surface forces to neutralize, which meant they had to take the entire site and destroy the Mechanicus forces.

The moment this happened, the Vetrix would open fire with her own systems and level the entire excavation site. They did not seem to be rational enough to leave the site intact to come back for it later. With a predatory attitude they had shown so far, they would sooner destroy their own prize before letting it slip out of their hands, even for a moment. The ship and the surface forces had to die at the same time.

‘Move towards the Vetrix, and start climbing out of the atmosphere,’ he gave a new order. ‘Rise at a 20% angle, and turn sharp starboard. Engage vertical thrusters on the starboard side, and maintain a 25% energy output there.’

‘Turning our portside towards them, my lord?’ one of the serfs asked.

Malistrum allowed himself a dry smile.

‘I have been doing this a lot nowadays, haven’t I? That is correct, helmsman. Keep our portside towards them, and try to draw them out from their position.’

Meanwhile on the surface, the right prong of the Fatemaker host was trying a similar approach to their Captain’s.

‘Keep moving and fire the buildings,’ the voice of Techmarine Guztav crackled through the vox-channel. ‘Infantry wave inbound in two minutes. Suppress enemy fire in the buildings at all cost.’

‘Affirmative,’ Tank Commander Miklas answered. He had been acting passively through the entire battle, answering only when receiving an order without initiating any communication himself. He was too good to lax in his duties, and his Land Raider had already managed to make some impressive kills among the enemy heavy weapon squads, but his heart was not in it, or in the battle in general. He had been feeling empty and hollow inside ever since he had seen what had become of his son.

The voxlines were busy with chatter, mostly from his fellow tank commanders. Some of them were reporting new information; other were asking for or offering assistance. At the initial phase of a battle, this was normal. None of the Astartes interjected in their conversation, except for the commander in charge of the units. The Space Marines generally trusted the human armour contingent and allowed them to do their job the best way they could. Once they debarked, the situation would probably change, and the tanks would become completely subservient to the needs of the Marine squads, but that time would arrive later. First, the carriers had to take them to position, a task which they had to solve on their own.

The Techmarine’s orders were nevertheless sound. The enemy could dig in at a cluster of buildings, and they actually managed to slow down the attack of the Fatemaker armour to a crawl. Their plan was obviously to pin the attackers down until their reinforcement arrived, and then they would meet the Fatemakers in hand to hand combat. It was a stupid plan, of course. There were only a few forces in the galaxy which could defeat Space Marines up close, and the Mechanicus was not one of them. Nevertheless, if the Fatemaker attack wanted to have a crushing impact on the enemy, it had to be a precision strike, with all units aligned properly at the right time. The enemy heavy weapon teams proved to be a distraction to this, and so it was up to the armour to weaken the incoming fire to a manageable level.

Miklas found he was barely caring. He had to struggle to get the strength to react to the battlefield, let alone feel committed. Win or die, it was the same for him.

‘Target at two o’clock, second floor, third window to the left,’ he instructed his gunner through the intervox. The gunners at the two twin-linked lascannons were hard-wired servitors, who did not respond back except for short affirmative grunts. The pone on the right side aimed with his weapon and swept over the second floor of the target building with a bright energy beam which bisected the window and its immediate area. A second later, a loud explosion tore out the rest of the wall onto the street, indicating that the enemy weapon exploded.

Miklas did not care. He heard the grunt of the servitor and imagined his son to be in a similar state: aiming and firing his weapon without any independent thought or emotion, not caring or even knowing about his own safety. The Fatemakers were honest with their people up to the point of cruelty. They had told the crew what to except from those chosen for servitor-surgery. The process was irreversible and the time window too narrow to make safe operations on the subjects. Whoever survived this battle would perish on their own within weeks.

The last manoeuvre took Miklas and his tank to the flank of the attack. He looked at his auspex and made his first report in the entire battle.

‘Enemy infantry inbound in fifty seconds from the north-east.’

‘Affirmative,’ the answer came. ‘All carriers form a speartip around Land Raider Four and turn into the attack.’

The remaining Fatemaker tanks turned and changed speed as they needed. Some human-shaped figures were moving among them: the infantry whose vehicle had been destroyed or immobilized were forced to debark sooner and they were now taking their place at the tip of the spear. They were mostly Ogryns in close-combat gear, but there were several Space Marines among them too. They were busy herding the servo-armoured brutes into a single group.

Miklas looked at the Space Marines and remembered the time when their presence inspired him and made him feel calm. It seemed like a lifetime ago. He suddenly registered the hard surface of his personal soul-stone under his shirt pressing against his skin. It seemed like salvation at the point he received them. Now he knew just what kind of a price that stone involved.

He veered into position with his tank. The enemy infantry was visible now among the buildings: a mass of metallic shapes with a few larger figures looming over the others. The Astartes speartip hurled into their unruly formation.

‘Debark in six second,’ the Techmarine’s voice crackled through the vox for the last time. Miklas looked at the incoming enemy and imagined for a second how easy it would be to simply crash into them without stopping. It would probably over quickly. Perhaps there would be no more noise and dull pain on the other side.

He decelerated exactly at the right moment. He was too well trained and his battle-instincts trapped him to do his duty no matter how he wanted to end it all.

‘Debark in six second.’

The voice was metallic and slightly distorted even though the Land Raider blocked out most of the noises of the battle raging outside. It was still enough for the small squad of Astartes crammed inside the passenger compartment.

‘You know what to do,’ Sergeant Hemethor growled to his men. He knew they needed no more instruction from him. They had the training and the experience of fighting a hundred other battles together.

There were only seven of them. Space Marine squads stayed together for decades, sometimes even centuries, but recent events had reduced their number. Squad Hemethor seemed to be cursed: battle losses, murder and suicide befell on its members on equal measures, perhaps tarnishing its reputation forever.

This mission would take its toll as well, but at least, this fight would be clean. Fighting overwhelming odds against a dangerous enemy for clear military purposes: this was what the squad needed now, and if every one of them went down today, it would only mean they could leave in honour. They would no longer have to exist in a world which offered no salvation, slowly compromising their very existence away with every step.

The Land Raider slowed down as Miklas stepped on the brakes; at the same time, the ramp slammed down and the compartment was suddenly filled with deafening noise. Decades of experience allowed the squad to make sense of the tactical situation in a heartbeat, not that they needed to be tactical geniuses to see what was happening. The Astartes prong was about to cut into a huge enemy formation consisting of mostly augmented skitarii infantry and strange metallic figures. To their right, the units and tanks standing at the foremost of the speartip were just crashing into the enemy, and there, the sounds of shooting were complemented by screams and metallic clashes. The speartip favoured direct physical contact. The heretics here would not perish by a Fatemaker gunline but would be crushed under tank tracks and the power mauls of the Ogryns.

Directly in front of Squad Hemethor, the enemy was about to rush them. There were fewer skitarii here, but there was a big knot of the Metal Men whom – which – the Fatemakers had already encountered. They were created for hand-to-hand combat with their energized caws, but the Fatemakers were never willing o fight entirely on their enemies’ terms.

The Land Raider was still moving, and the ramp did not even have the chance to fall down completely, but the front two Astartes already started to fire. They were equipped with the storm shield and assault cannon combination which the Fatemakers favoured on their Terminator units. The rotating cannons hosed the attackers with an almost visibly continuous line of bullets as Miklas veered with his vehicle to keep the formation and to provide the widest possible firing angle for his passengers. The other squad members did not move. This was their brothers’ time to kill, and they were killing admirably. Sporadic enemy fire bounced off their shields as these living tanks cut down the approaching heretic troops. For a few seconds, the enemy seemed almost oblivious of the incoming fire. The troops just moved forward into the cannons’ firing zone, and the two Terminators did not even have to move their weapons to bring down the first three rows of soldiers in front of them.

The tank came to a screeching stop and the passengers all jumped out. The assault cannons continued firing, and now that the weaker infantry already lay dead on the ground, the two lascannons of the Land Raider also cut into the enemy to loosen up the formation before the engagement.

The enemy came apart. Those troops who still had organic parts were the easier to kill, but now the metallic infantry was running onwards them as well, and they also suffered. Limbs and metal chunks were flying in all directions as the Metal Men kept moving towards Hemethor and his men. Even as they fell, these new troops kept coming, standing back up, limping or skipping if their legs were damaged or crawling forward on the remains of their arms if their lower limbs – or, in some occasions, the entire lower part of their body – had been torn off from under them.

Yet they were coming closer. Rows of Metal Men were destroyed, but the rest and the remains of the formation were about to engage the Terminators. It was time to beat them in their own games.

The two Terminators with the assault cannons stepped aside and let their brothers move forward. They were equipped with more individual weaponry: stormbolters, power fists and one ornate master-crafted stormhammer. Hemethor himself wore dual power claws, and he dashed forward to meet the enemy head on immediately. The Terminators were firing as they run, and between them and the lascannons of the Land Raider, they managed to beat down another row of Metal Men before the two sides clashed.

A Metal Man climbed on the back of its peer who was reeling under a salvo of bolter rounds and used it as a lever to spring up in the air. It obviously wanted to land on the head of one of the terminators, but it wasted its one main asset in this fight: its speed and mobility. It was easy to see where it would land eventually, and Hemethor leapt directly under it. His right claw slashed upwards, and he shore off both arms of the attacker before it had a chance to sink the power blades into his neck. He then stepped on the torso of the creature as soon as it landed with a metallic screech and pinned it down with his weight as he received the attack of three more Metal Men.

Sergeant Andorias was not the only man who could wield power claws with deadly efficiency. The bulky Terminator Armour was no match for the speed of the Metal Men, but it provided enough protection against their claws, and while the reinforced ceramite got gushed and torn in half a dozen places in a few seconds, the Sergeant could dish out the same amount of punishment to his enemies whose metal body proved to be a lot less resilient than his.

This was the point where a well-drilled, closed formation of Astartes could prevail against an enemy who was more agile. Formed up in a line, the Metal Men could only attack from one direction, and although the two sides were well-matched in deadly close-combat weaponry, better armour and Astartes discipline punched the squad through the machines without a single loss. The squad moved together with the rest of the prong: they cut down Metal Men as they went on, and Miklas was right behind them with his Land Raider to shoot apart any tighter know of resistance who happened to come by.

Hemethor tore open the last Metal Man in sight with an upper cut, and slowed down. The prong had pushed the fight back among the buildings, and there was sporadic fire coming at them again from the various windows. These firepoints had to be neutralized while the pressure on the enemy troops had to be maintained simultaneously. Hemethor had the authority to decide which target was more important, but he needed a moment to check the overall tactical situation, so he moved aside to hug the nearest building wall and looked around.

As he suspected, there were several heretics firing from the windows above him. He was already out of their zone of fire, but his squad was harassed by these assailants. He winced behind his visor as some form of a grenade launcher caught the Land Raider in the side and rocked it with the force of the blast. He was about to order half his men inside the building when a new group of enemy caught his attention.

There were only three of them, but they were huge. Hemethor had seen similar figures before, but his squad had not had to fight with them so far as they seemed to concentrate only on the tip of the prong so far. No they were going directly for his men. The brutes were wearing hooded capes, and although they had no visible weapons, there was something menacing in their slow, silent approach.

Astartes memory was selective but recallable. The Sergeant had deliberately blocked out any outside chatter which had come through the vox-line. They did not affect his team and were thus irrelevant up to this point. Now he concentrated on the earlier messages coming from the forwards elements of the prong – the ones who had already fought these things.

He suddenly jerked his head up.

‘Concentrate fire on the first one!’ he shouted.

The squad and the land Raider opened fire the same time the first of the three brutes lurched forward. The hood and the cape burst open as the he creature flexed its muscles and literally bulged up to rip its clothing out of the way. The shape under the cloth proved to be vaguely humanoid, although instead of arms, the thing had a set of mechanic tentacles ending in razor-sharp blades. The face was completely buried under several metal plates, wires and medical tubes, and the mouthpiece was covered by a grilled speaker which emitted a loud roar as the creature sped up.

‘Flagellant!’ Hemethor yelled as the tentacles started to whirl. The enemy clearly used to have an Ogryn labour force when they seceded from the Mechanicum. It was now also clear that the heretic tech-priests had performed surgery on them to turn them into a deadlier form of arco-flagellant.

The squad poured everything they had into the monster. It was peppered by so many bolter rounds that it should have died immediately, no matter how bulky it was. Yet it moved on, thrashing wildly around itself with its whirling tentacles. Miniature explosions slowed its attack down to a crawl, but it kept on coming, its brain wired to heed only one command: get into the middle of the enemy formation to wreck as much havoc as possible.

Hemethor was powerless to do anything against it. Dual power claws were good choices for this battle, but he needed a long-range weapon against this brute-flagellant, and he had absolutely no firearm on him. He made a step back to allow his squad-mate with his assault cannon move forward to hose the attackers with his fast-cycling gun. The brute slowed down, although its ferocity did not diminish at all. Its tentacles lashed out wildly and tore into the storm shield of the Terminator. Hemethor’s muscles tensed as he was ready to go round the Terminator and stab the monster with his power blades. It would probably cost him his arm, but…

Then the Land raider opened fire and exploded the brute’s head. The thing fell back and hit the ground hard. The squad immediately redirected fire to fell the remaining two brutes, and they moved forward to get a better firing position. Hemethor’s eyes widened.

‘Step back!’

It was too late. The Terminator with the assault cannon actually stepped between the limp tentacles of the dead brute. There was the faintest of sounds. A series of clicks and hisses, barely audible, coming from the tip of the tentacles and moving down along the joints to reach the torso.

Then it happened without any warning. The tentacles started to whirl and wriggle again. Their speed was blinding. There was no reason or rhyme in their movement, as if every single tentacle had been spasming independently of one another or even of the main body. Probably this was the case. The enemy had built an emergency system into the brutes to make sure they would be able to cause damage even in their death.

The Terminator literally came apart in a shower of blood, viscera and ceramite shrapnel. The tentacles got hold of him and put him in a vice, pulling his apart with their wild lashing. The rest of the squad halted for a second. This counter-attack was so sudden and shocking that even the Astartes needed a second to adapt, and they did not have a second to spare. The other two brutes tore off their clothes and ran at the squad with the same metal appendages as the one Miklas killed.

They reached their thrashing peer in a heartbeat. One of them growled loudly and swung its tentacles, punching the dead brute aside. It lost two of its own limbs in the process, but the first flagellant rolled aside, punching into a neighbouring Fatemaker tank. The limbs were still moving, and they immediately started to pull apart that vehicle as well, but that was no longer Sergeant Hemethor’s problem. He was now facing two deadly brutes who were unbeatable in close combat with his seemingly useless power claws.

He yelled and jumped. Not forward to meet the enemy head on, not backwards to allow them even more advantage with their longer reach, but aside at the wall of the building. He lowered his claws and used the terminator armour as a bulldozer, ploughing through the wall and into the edifice.

The brutes followed him. They must not have equipped with much cognitive function to see that they were being lured away, and even if they had possessed some form of reasoning, a Terminator-armoured Astartes with Sergeant markings should have been enough to entice them. They tore through the wall on Hemethor’s two sides, who had already moved on, bumping into the wall opposite him.

‘Direct order!’ he yelled. He knew he had to shortcut any possible delay in his squad’s reaction time, and they would have questioned his logic if they had got the chance. ‘Destroy the ground floor of the building!’

The world exploded around him. Chunks of rock-crete and metal splinters flew in every possible direction as he moved forward at the best speed his armour could make and broke through everything. He smashed aside furniture and went through walls as if they had been nothing but paper. He never looked back, but he heard the crashes and bangs as the two brutes flowed him, causing an even bigger chaos in the confined rooms than him. He half ran, half walked through everything: the floor splintered under him, electric shocks fizzled around his armour as he went through power circuits and on one occasion, a frozen figure got in the way, whom he stomped down without stopping. The brutes were howling as they furrowed a wide corridor into the house behind him. The sensors built into his helmet told the captain that the sources of the great noise were mere metres behind him, and with their long-reaching limbs, this meant that the brutes’ tentacles were missing him perhaps with a few inches.

He made a sharp turn when he felt he was reaching the en of the building. He had no intention of going to open ground. He leaned down as much as he dared and moved on. A dark shape tore through the wall in his peripheral, and something hard and strong slammed into his shoulder, almost tipping him over. Something similarly large slammed into the first one, and the two got intermingled for a second, which allowed him to push himself forward again. He was literally running for his life now.

His squad opened fire in the meantime. The noise reached deafening level, and the building groaned under the barrage. Hemethor was now moving blindly. He knew he was moving away from the brutes, and his Astartes senses kept him in a straight line, but he did not know what was in front of him or how long it would take to go through the entire building. He no longer heard the brutes behind him, and that was good – then a small but agile figure jumped at him, and he had no space to manoeuvre. He simply charged at the enemy. He slammed into the body, which fell and got under his boots, but the attacker was a Metal Man, and this was not enough injury for him. It clawed at his shins, and even though the Sergeant stomped on it, it still managed to latch itself on him. It buried its claw in Hemethor’s leg, and the Sergeant yelled out in pain.

He did not stop, not even to kick the Metal Man off him. His brain shut off the pain, and he continued to move. The cacophony of the shooting and the howls of the flagellants were complimented by a more ominous sound: a slow but long cracking noise, which could only mean that the building finally gave in to all the damage it received and was about to collapse.

It happened really fast afterwards. Hemethor tore through one last wall, and sunshine greeted him on the other side. At the same time, the building made a last groan as the destruction the three enemies made inside and the heavy weapon barrage coming from the outside killed it. The top three floors fell down onto the ground floor, and the noise and the dust blocked out everything else. The Sergeant got stuck for a moment, when something large – a crossbeam, perhaps – fell to the ground behind him. There was a wild jerk, and his leg got free. He limped away from the collapsing building. The dust still blinded him, the noise did not abate and there was a sharp pain in his leg, but it seemed that he would live.

The dust soon settled down enough for him to see what he had done. The entire building had gone down. It was one big pile of wreckage, the kind an industrial machine would cause at a demolition site. Nobody could have survived it, but his superhuman senses saw some erratic movement as some of the remains were moving up and down in a quick rotation.

‘Sergeant!’ his vox crackled. ‘Did you survive?’

‘I think I did,’ he answered. He watched as the thrashing ceased in the wreckage: the flagellants died, and their programming caused them to lash out with their tentacles, but three floors’ worth of wreck stifled it down well enough. He then winced as his brain reminded him of his wound on his leg. He looked down and saw a metal arm, torn off at the elbow, its claws still embedded in the back of his calf.

Then he heard something. It was a new noise, and he needed a moment to adjust his senses just to interpret what had just changed in the battlefield. He realized it soon enough. The orbital cannons in the middle of the camp had been firing at the Opportunity since the beginning of the attack, and their noise had since become part of the background: something Hemethor knew of but did not acknowledge. The problem was the cannon noise, but not because they started to fire more.

The problem was the lack of a familiar noise. All orbital cannons had stopped firing.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 54)

Postby librisrouge » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:09 pm

Again, great inclusion of the characters emotional state without detracting from the action of the scene. A thoroughly wonderful read.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 54)

Postby Midgard » Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:09 pm

Love it - great stuff again!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 54)

Postby Meaneye » Sat Nov 09, 2013 12:09 am

Darn it, my head hurts! But I am ready with another update :D .

‘No more shots coming from the orbital cannons, my lord.’

Malistrum allowed himself a rare smile. It was almost laughingly easy to lure the enemy ship right between the Opportunity and the surface batteries. Now the cannons could not target the Fatemakers without endangering their own ship.

This was a textbook mistake, and the enemy made it. Clearly these heretics were no soldiers. This fact should have made the Captain more relaxed, but at the moment, all he felt was cold disdain.

‘Let’s see if they are willing to follow us some more,’ he said. ‘Rise out of the atmosphere and see to it that they remain between us and the cannons.’

The crew obeyed with their usual proficiency. Malistrum sat back in his chair and watched with the usual impassive expression on his face. The enemy showed no tactical flexibility which meant they would attack with their conventional weaponry very soon.

He was right. The attack came suddenly, but not unexpectedly. The skull prow at the front of the Vetrix opened its jaw and screamed – just as it had a few days earlier. The scrapcode-spirits which the Vetrix had used then had almost managed to cripple the Opportunity once, but this time, it was an expected and a known threat and the ship was prepared. Magos Brakk was down on the planet directing the Mechanicus forces, but his acolytes were still aboard, and they reacted to the attack just the way they were supposed to.

The lights aboard the Opportunity started to flicker, and the decks vibrated slightly – more than enough for experienced senses of the crew to feel the difference. Malistrum looked up and waited patiently for the flicker to die down. The lights came back normally after a few seconds, and the crew sighed in relief.

‘Enemy scrapcode attack averted, Captain,’ a voice addressed the bridge from the Enginarium.

‘Thank you, Adept,’ Malistrum answered and turned back to the crew. ‘Keep rising.’

‘Captain?’ the serf of the auspex looked back at him. ‘You ordered me to warn you if there is any energy signature from the secondary surface target.’

Malistrum leaned forward. The primary target on the surface was the actual dig-site which the heretics carved into the rock. Any energy signature coming out of it would have been catastrophic news, and various contingency plans had been made just for that occasion. The secondary target was the Titan depot, and so an energy signature coming from there still made it very bad.

‘Inform the surface forces,’ Malistrum ordered. The real test for his men had just begun.

‘Fatemakers, this is the Opportunity. The Titans are walking. Repeat, the Titans re walking.’

‘Great,’ Essen murmured to himself. It was no surprise that they would get to this point, but this was still bad news. The Fatemaker casualties were already too high in Astartes, humans and material alike, but now even more would die.

A still sobering thought was the fact that he was powerless against this threat.

He and his remaining scouts were running through a corridor inside one of the buildings in the middle of the compound. The three prongs were making good progress now, and they pushed the enemy back into their own camp so deep that the three Fatemaker task forces almost linked up with one another. This would have allowed them a more focussed attack strike, and that was good. On the other hand, this also allowed the enemy to strike at the entire force with overwhelming firepower, which three Warhounds were more than able to do.

The last few minutes of almost unhindered push made more sense now. Even though they were making progress, the Fatemakers were, in fact, at the brink of defeat.

A dark figure stumbled in front of the Scout-Sergeant, reminding him that he had more immediate concerns now. He fired from the hip as he ran on and passed the enemy soldier even as it was falling on the ground. The scouts ran through the corridor and up the last stair at the end of it. The small team only stopped at the door which opened to the rooftop.

Essen stretched out his arm, and one of the scouts placed a small auspex unit into his hand. The battle calmed down enough at this point to allow the scouts to move a little slower and with more caution, just like they were trained. Essen looked at the auspex and held up three fingers. Then he made a pushing movement with his palm, indicating that he would take out these enemies on his own.

He shouldered the door open and rolled. The enemy fireteam consisted of three people – modified skitarii by the looks of it – and two of them were busy handling a hefty autocannon, but the third one, the leader, reacted immediately. He shot two holes into the doorframe, approximately where Essen’s head would have been had he not gone down. The Sergeant did not miss. His shot went right through the Skitarii’s chest, pushing him against the other two.

The two had been alerted, but they had no time to turn back. Essen shot them down with almost contemptuous ease before turning back to wave his scouts in. The others fanned in with their weapons ready.

‘Check the roof,’ Essen said. Then he turned and fired. The Skitarii whom he had just shot was trying to get on his elbows. He was reaching for his weapon, too, but the second shot sent him back to the ground.

Essen swore. Skitarii were notoriously tough, but these modified types were something different altogether. He wondered for a second just how many of the Fatemakers would die today because they thought they had killed their enemy who later lashed back at them.

‘Move!’ he barked, and the team dispersed along the roof. Essen himself went to the autocannon, and he looked down at the Skitarii. He tryingly pushed him with his foot.

The Skitarii’s hand darted forward, but he was obviously wounded and he missed the Sergeant’s leg. Essen jumped back and hissed, almost approvingly. He pressed the muzzle of his gun against the Skitarii’s temple.

‘I have never had to kill someone three times,’ he said. ‘Take this as a token of appreciation.’

He shot him through the head and sighed. His eyes were already scanning the neighbouring rooflines. A Titan, even the scout variant, was not so difficult to miss, but he needed to spot the trio of war engines as soon as possible. Rock-crete armours were already taking up positions around the building; he had no intention of watching his battle-brothers die.

Two of those power armours belonged to Librarian Akichi and Chaplain Uskovich.

Akichi had not so much been fighting his way into the compound than been escorted forwards by the Chaplain and a small team of Astartes. Normally, the Librarian would have been used as heavy armour: capable of great devastation at close range, also able to protect others with psychic shield, he would have been the one leading the others, not the other way round. Yet, he was relegated to secondary duty in the battle for two reasons.

The first reason was that nobody, not even he could predict what would happen if a strong psychic force suddenly erupted in the camp. Malistrum had a sneaking suspicion just what these heretics were trying to dig out from the ground, and the danger of activating something during the battle was too big. Conventional energy surges must have happened regularly at the site, but psy-craft was something different, which Akichi completely agreed with. The Mechanicus could be dealt with, the Titans could too, but there was a limit to risk-taking.

The other reason he was not allowed to fight was even simpler: he had to conserve his psychic reserves in case he had to take on a Titan. That was something he had never tried, and there was no precedence in the Chapter archives for this kind of action either. If he had to, he would have rushed the Warhounds, but that was a last-ditch-effort, in case the other groups failed. Hemethor’s Terminators, the Fatemaker tanks and Sergeant Andorias were the main strike forces in this fight, and this made his position unfamiliarly inconvenient.

The Librarian took a quick look at the Chaplain who was busy smashing through a squad of skitarii soldiers. Akichi had to marvel the focus and expertise of Uskovich. The man was no longer a Space Marine in his mind. He lacked any trace of the mental conditioning which made the other Astartes such peerless warriors, but it was not visible on him as he moved and swept through his enemies with wide strokes of his crozius. Apparently, the Astartes conditioning could be replaced by normal human determination when it was coupled with a century of battlefield experience.

Akichi quickly shot the last Skitarii who somehow managed to get slightly behind Uskovich. The Chaplain nodded to him and went on to meet the next wave of attackers. The Librarian looked at the bolt pistol in his hand and felt again saw just how completely restrained he was.

He could not use his powers actively, but this did not mean he could not use his passive forces. He emptied his mind and sharpened his senses to a point unattainable even for his own Battle-Brothers. His psy-senses were of little use against an enemy whose soldiers did not all possess a soul to observe; the dim of war dulled his hearing and there was not much to see standing among a few tall buildings, but he had more senses than just those three.

There was a vibration under his feet. A series of steady throbs as something big was approaching their position. He kneeled down and placed his gauntleted hand on the ground. The noise separated into three distinct thudding sounds now.

He waited. The noise became louder.

‘Six hundred feet,’ he announced through the vox. ‘Coming from the north-north-west.’

‘Acknowledged,’ Techmarine Guztav answered. ‘Prepare to engage.’

That was an understatement of the challenge waiting for the Fatemakers, but the men reacted nevertheless. Akichi saw that the area was mostly cleared by now, with Chaplain Uskovich striking down the last of the enemies at the far side of the building Akichi himself was hugging. The noise of the Titans got louder, and the Librarian no longer needed psy-senses to hear their approach. A foreboding mood descended on the Fatemakers. Squads went into cover or inside the buildings, the tanks were waiting with running engines and the mortal auxiliary – Ogryns and humans alike – were clutching their weapons with dreadful anticipation.

Chaplain Uskovich found himself at the front of the Fatemaker formation. He carefully sidestepped along the wall until he reached the end of it and he stopped. The enemy Titans’ footsteps were so close now that the ground shook visibly and the thudding noises reached deafening level. Other sounds could be heard, too: smaller footsteps indicating marching infantry.

Uskovich leaned forward to risk a quick glance round the corner. He froze before even the tip of his helmet reached over the wall.

Then he jumped backwards. The corner and a great chunk of the building disappeared in an explosive outburst of rock-crete and dust while the sound of several macro-weapons filled the air. The enemy war engines sounded their triumphant horns and the infantry screamed in their strange metallic voices. They had discovered their enemies and now they were coming to kill them all.

The Chaplain ran back along the wall: the enemy shells tore up the wall just two feet behind him and the destruction seemed to follow him to the point where Akichi was standing. The Librarian ran into the Chaplain and tackled him on the ground. The last few shells blew out the side of the building at waist height, and they both got covered by the falling debris.

The battle had started. Akichi looked up and saw the Warhounds turn into the street at the corner. He saw the enemy foot-soldiers run in front of them in a ridiculous-looking effort to provide cover for their towering lords. He saw his brothers run up to the enemy to meet the head on, and he yanked Uskovich off the ground to join them.

The last thing he saw before the melee swallowed both of them was a strangely small figure leaping off the neighbouring house towards one of the Titans.

This was his time. Twenty-two years ago, he had made a miracle by single-handedly taking down a Warhound, and now he had to do it again.

Andorias crawled to the edge of the building and watched as war engine trio moved towards the Fatemakers at a steady, determined pace. All three of them were equipped with Vulcan mega-bolters: nothing fancy, no sophisticated technology, just the old classic shell-spitting appendages. It was ideal to destroy an infantry-based force like the Fatemakers, which the Warhounds proved by scything down the first groups of loyalists they could find.

There were smaller figures around them: Skitarii and a few Metal Men to provide infantry cover for the Warhounds. They were inconsequential. Whatever killing power they possessed, it dwarfed next to what the Titans were capable of.

Their fury was a terrible sight. Space Marines and Ogryns were reduced to red mist and chunks of metal in a few seconds. Decades of training and personal combat experience, honour-bound pasts and lifetimes of dedication were reduced to nothing in a single heartbeat. Andorias watched as his Chapter suffered the worst casualties of the last decade in front of his eyes.

People disappeared. Bodies were not simply torn apart: they were annihilated. Tanks burst open. An entire squad of Astartes died as people were frantically trying to get into cover. The Warhounds made metallic howls in triumph and stopped in their stride to properly aim at the tiny targets at their feet.

This was the moment the Fatemakers were waiting for. By making the right sacrifice, they made the war engines immobile for a second, allowing for the survivors to swarm them.

The wall next to the left-side Warhound burst open and sergeant Hemethor in his Terminator Armour marched through it with his squad. They fell upon the enemy infantry and a swirling close combat erupted right at the feet of the flanking Titan. The Mechanicus infantry turned into the assailants, and for a moment, the Warhounds faltered as they tried to pirouette into a better position to shoot into the melee. The Warhound on the right made a step back and to the right, further approaching Andorias's building.

The Astartes Sergeant exhaled. He pushed the disturbing thoughts about Captain Malistrum and Scout-Sergeant Essen; he forgot his dark thoughts and secret doubts. He became the focussed Astartes he was supposed to be.

He activated his jump pack. It was a magnificent, well-calculated leap which ended in a somersault in the air. The end of the curve put Andorias right above the enemy Warhound, spread-eagled, face down.

He then turned off his jump-packs. He fell towards the war engine with the rest of his momentum. This leap was going to put him right on top of the war engine between the two exhaust blocks.

The void shield caught him mid-fall.

Imperial void-shield technology was an interesting area. The idea was simple enough: in wars, an impenetrable wall between you and the enemy was an obviously good idea. The problem started when the protected object needed to move, like a mobile Titan. Hard shields would not have worked; the void shield would have pushed the war engine back as soon as it approached some heavy, immovable object, which was why relative incoming speed was invented. Anything solid which touched the shield at any speed was repelled; anything which arrived at the engine's current speed and along its current path was repelled.

Sergeant Andorias did not arrive at the right angle or speed. He flattened against the void shield and stopped immediately. He became dead weight with no motion, with only gravity affecting him. His body slowly sank into and through the shield with small electric discharges as the shield slowed his descent down to what it was programmed to accept as minimal relative speed.

The friction was the problem. An incoming missile would have exploded on the shield; a vehicle would have bounced back. The slow sink let Andorias through, but it short-circuited all the systems in his armour. He fell on the Warhound immobile, deaf and blind, locked up into a piece of dead metal.

Hemethor did not see Andorias’s fall. He had his hands full himself.

The Warhound in the middle moved too fast. It turned on him the moment he appeared and although he could quickly jump between it and its neighbour, the megabolters ploughed up the ground behind him. One of the life-signs displayed on the inside of his visor went blank and he knew that the Terminator the signal indicated had just died. The bolters also reduced the building behind him to rubble. The rest of his squad will be trapped there for a while.

He would suffice. He moved as fast as he could, which was not very fast in Terminator armour. The Warhounds seemed to have forgotten about him and concentrated on the enemy they could reach with his weapons, but safety was not Hemethor's aim now. He needed to get inside the void shield if he wanted to hurt the Titans in any meaningful way.

'Halt the left one,' he growled into the vox-link.

His commands had priority for this engagement. The Fatemakers jumped out of cover and hosed the Warhound everything they had: solid-ammunition heavy weapon fire and high-energy discharges bit into its void shield. Although the shield held – much, much more firepower was needed to bring it down – the Titan stopped again for the second time, while its brother engine moved on.

Hemethor ran around it. More of his brothers died in the few seconds it took him to get into position, but if he could get inside the shield, all the sacrifice would be worth it. He clawed down a Skitarii who tried to shoot him with a melta weapon, and another who actually failed to register him, so busy was he emptying his lasgun into the other Fatemakers. He had to hurry. If the Warhound started to move again, it would leave him behind in a heartbeat.

He moved along the shimmering void shield as he ran into an archo-flagellant Ogryn.

He snarled and raised his claws as the best spun its metallic tentacles to strike him down. Neither of them had the chance to reach the other, though. A high-calibre shot arrived from above and sideways, and exploded the beast's head.

'Move away, Hemethor!' a new voice cut into his channel. It belonged to Scout-Sergeant Essen, as if anyone else would have been able to make an impossible kill-shot in the strike force. If he wanted to save Hemethor, he was probably wrong. The enemy's flagellants were wired with a back-up system which took control over their motor function as soon as the host body stopped functioning. In a second, the beast would lash around itself again, more violently than before, and Hemethor would die.

There was nothing he could do about that. The Warhound stepped forward, and the void shield moved towards the Fatemaker Sergeant. Just as the Ogryn's body jerked next to him, just as the tentacles started to spasm on the ground, Hemethor froze, literally blocking even the micro-movements in his armour joints which normally worked to maintain balance while the wearer was standing still. He even flexed his muscles immobile. He faced the approaching void shield like a true statue.

Sergeant Andorias had fallen on a Warhound from above with considerable speed, and the shield fried his systems. Hemethor was basically a still object, unaffected even by gravity, standing in the right way and the right angle. The shield let him pass, just as it would have let pass a large piece of rock.

A power discharge ran through the shield's surface behind him as the erratically jerking Ogryn corpse bumped into it and was knocked sideways. Hemethor activated his systems again. Inside the shield bubble, all outside sound were muffled, as if he was not fighting in a battle at all. The world was reduced to him and the two feet of the Warhound: the one in the air, the other put firmly against the ground.

That leg was the target. Hemethor channelled every inch of power into the joints of the leg armour and he literally jumped at it. The other leg came down on the ground with a crushing force, and Hemethor could hear the servos grinding as the Titan tried to shake him off itself. He ran his left power claws into the adamantite shin-guard of the Titan, effectively stitching himself to the leg. Then he aimed with the right claw and ran them into the ball joint of the ankle.

Sparkles flew in all directions as he pulled them out. The leg made a step and slammed against the ground, almost tearing up his innards with its forceful vibration. The left claws remained wedged in the adamantite, and the Sergeant buried the right claws into the joint again.

Then he buried them again and again and again.

The shaking woke him up.

He was buried. Somebody buried him in a narrow coffin which literally bound his limbs, then they buried him deep under ground where the outside noises only arrived to him muffled and weak.

It was dark in the coffin. He was blind and almost deaf.

He groaned. He flexed his muscles and the coffin moved around him a little. He felt the elastic wrapping around his body and he realized that he was still inside his power armour. His head hurt, especially his artificial eye. It did not seem to be working at all. The fall through the shield must have...

It all came back. He was not in a coffin at all. He fell through the Warhound’s void shield, and it shut down all the systems in the armour and in his eye-implant. His armour no longer augmented and boosted his capabilities; rather, he was now forced to carry it like dead weight while it seriously disabled his movement.

He moves sluggishly slow. He stretched his arms sideways, with a very similar feeling to when he was lifting weight in the Opportunity's training rooms. His arms bumped into something solid and he realized that his plan had worked after all.

Twenty-two years earlier, Andorias – who had not been an officer then – was shot mid-air while he was executing a jump attack, and the impact threw him on an enemy Warhound. The void shield disabled his armour just like now, and he had to lie on the huge war engine until the system came back alive. Then he crawled forward on the back, down to the head and killed it with a couple of melta charges. It earned him a commendation and it also made him the obvious choice to kill the next rouge war engine his strike force encountered.

Two decades ago, it had taken him five minutes to re-ignite his armour's systems and another seven to get back complete motor functions. He did not have that time now. The Titans would destroy everybody by then.

But he was lying between the exhaust blocks on the Warhound's back and he was facing the right way. He could move and do this by his own superhuman strength.

He pushed himself forward, leaning on the two panels besides him. He felt crippled and useless. The world was shaking around him, every muffled noise meant another shot fired at his battle-brothers, and he was crawling on all fours like an animal. He heaved and made another foot forward. The unpowered armour did not only weigh him down, but it also made his senses dull, even his touch. He had to knock with his hand on the panel to feel that it was still there.

He gritted his teeth and pushed himself forward again. He tried to knock again and grunted with satisfaction as he failed to hit the panel. He had reached the end of the exhaust blocks.

The next step was to get above the head. He pushed himself out of the dent between the two blocks and continued to claw the metal in front of him until his fingers got caught on the edge. He pulled himself to it. He was now lying immediately above the canine head of the war engine.

He did not expect to be forced to jump on it blind. He forced himself to concentrate and reached down his waist. He had been equipped with melta-charges before the battle and he took one off the magnetic belt. It was not switched on so the shield could not short-circuit it either. He tried to find the trigger and found himself fumbling helplessly with the metal pipes which used to be his trusty power gauntlet fingers. He had just realized how much Astartes relied on their armour's auto-senses when they were clad in them.

His thumb finally found a somewhat larger protrusion on the charge. He spent another two seconds calculating how far he had to jump to reach the armourcrys window of the Titan. He had a pathetic experience of exactly one previous such occasion, and that time, he had sight, so he knew he would have to improvise now.

He suddenly realized how much trust and faith his strike force placed in him now, and this, coupled with the thought of how he was planning to shed Fatemaker blood before the day was over, made him laugh hysterically into his dead helmet.

He jumped with all the force he could muster out of his muscles. The armour pulled him down almost immediately, and he crushed onto a lower metal plate. His two hands flailed forward: the right was holding the melta-charge, the other open with fingers stretched out.

Both his hands slammed down on the metal, but he felt that he reached another edge with them just below his elbows.

His left hand latched onto that edge, the brow of the head. He reached out with his right arm, attached the melta-charge onto the window and his thumb pushed the small button.

The Titan stopped so hard the change in motion threw him back to the collar around the neck. The war engine's crew had just seen a Space Marine jumping on the window from above, but they had no time to react to him in any way. The charge exploded.

Andorias made sure he had chosen a boarding charge for this one instead of the usual load he carried. Most meltabombs acted like proper bombs and exploded in all direction. A boarding charge was designed to explode in one direction with enough heat to cut through starship platings. The window had no chance against it.

The Warhound threw its head up in the air. It did not howl. It did not give any sound any more. It simply staggered like a drunkard, then fell over with its steaming head slamming hard on the ground.

The Fatemaker force cheered as one, and Andorias became a double Titan killer. He saw and fell none of it. The fall of the Warhound threw him to the ground while still clad in half a tonne of useless ceramite, and he landed with such a bone-shattering force that he passed out immediately.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 55)

Postby Chh » Sat Nov 09, 2013 1:04 am

A massive firefight, an intelligent solution to the issues associated with shielding, and one impressive Titan kill. What more can one ask for from one chapter?
Currently writing: http://www.thebolthole.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2138 (Sanguinian Heresy)

Please read some of it, and give feedback. Please?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 55)

Postby librisrouge » Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:34 am

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 55)

Postby Midgard » Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:55 pm

You write battle scenes really well, and I am still enjoying this greatly. Keep up the good work! :)
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 55)

Postby Meaneye » Tue Dec 10, 2013 11:11 pm

Update again. I had to split this part in two because it started to get too long.

Sergeant Hemethor could not for his life remember a more dangerous situation he had been in than what he was doing now. If he had been alive at the time of the Neodevourer Wars, perhaps he would have seen more perilous action, but he was a relatively young officer in Strike Force Four, and so the most dangerous moment in his life had to be this one: crouching on the foot of a heretic Warhound titan while stabbing its ankle-joint with a power claw.

The Titan did not stay in one place. Surely it felt Hemethor at its feet as it was striding and jumping wildly, stomping its foot down hard so the Terminator would fall off it. The Fatemaker did not give it this satisfaction. He was clinging to the shin-guard with his claws on his left hand so tight that the war engine could simply not throw him off. Stabbing with the other hand should have been an easy task compared to this, but the engine was shaking so wildly that the Sergeant had to spend more energy staying balanced than working on the beast with his free hand. If he contorted too much to the right or left, the blades would snap eventually and he would fall. The Warhound would no doubt jump at him at once, crushing him in an instant.

At least his action distracted the Warhound. The trio of war engines attacked in concert to inflict maximum damage upon the Fatemaker forces, but their plan had been foiled. Visibility and vox reception was poor inside the Titan's void shield, but the Sergeant saw one of the other Warhounds fall over, and he also saw inside the bubble that his engine was barely shooting with its megabolters. His fellow Fatemakers only had to deal with one of the Titans now, and they were busy shooting it with everything they had at their disposal. The battle, which had started woefully one-sided, now suddenly got balanced.

Hemethor intended to tilt this balance by felling his Warhound, but it was easier said than done. He could punch his power claws through the joint of the Titan, but punching a hole and slicing through it were two different things – especially as he also had to hold on. He waited patiently as the war engine made a thundering step with its right leg, the leg he attached himself to. Then, as his armour absorbed the shock of being slammed against the ground, he quickly made two or three stabs while the Warhound stepped with the other leg. It was painfully slow and it felt frustrating for a warrior of his standing to be so inadequate for a task. All the while, he also concentrated hard: he had to force the outside battle out of his thoughts even as his brothers continued to die.

Shapes were jumping around the shield, most of them enemy troops. Every now and then, one of them – especially the bigger ones – jumped at the shield to get to the Terminator inside, but they were all repelled with an electric surge running through the shield's surface. Just as the attackers had had difficulties getting behind the void shields, the heretic Mechanicus troops were also incapable of assisting their fellow engine.

Hemethor blocked them out. He ignored the small, wiry figure which ran parallel with the lumbering Titan. He did not see it overtake the Warhound, and as the figure got out of his peripheral vision, he also failed to see how it froze in front of the engine and how the shield let it pass through.

The Sergeant only reacted to the pain as the Metal Man stabbed him from behind. The blades punctured the Terminator armour deep enough to draw blood, and Hemethor grunted. The Metal Man latched onto him as the Titan raised its leg with two warriors clinging to it now. The Sergeant raised his right hand high up in the air. It was a pointless gesture and completely useless in close combat as it only opened a hole in his defence. The Metal Man did not fail to use it to its advantage. It swung to the Sergeant's right side and clawed at his exposed side furiously.

Hemethor's right arm slammed down and pressed the Metal man to his side. The Titan leg hit the ground and the two fighters lost balance. Hemethor was pushed forward, which he normally balanced out, but now he actually leaned into it and deliberately slammed itself onto the shin-guard of the Titan. He did not make contact with the adamantium plate, though.

The Metal Man's head got in the way.

The creature's head crumbled, and Hemethor threw the limp form off the Titan's leg as it made another step. There was no more intrusion and the Sergeant went back to slowly chipping away the ankle joint of the war engine. He stabbed and braced for impact as the titan stepped again.

Then he stabbed again.

And again.

And again.

There was a loud cracking noise.

He made another stab.

Then a final one.

The leg shook violently. The Warhound slammed on the ground and made his next step. A short but brutal screeching sound filled Hemethor's vox-unit and he suddenly found himself lifted up in the air.

He was not really lifted. The Warhound made a final step with its leg, but it left its foot on the ground as the ankle finally tore in two.

Hemethor was not in the air for long. The blades in his power claw snapped almost immediately, and he was thrown on the ground with all the grace of tree-log. He arrived on his back and yelled in pain as the impact broke several of his ribs.

He was finished for this battle. There was no way to crawl himself up on his feet in his Terminator armour, and even if he could have done it, the shock he received short-circuited half his systems anyway.

This did not matter, however because even as he was lying on his back, he saw how the Titan arrived on its trunk of a leg, skipped and fell on the ground, emitting an incoherent metallic cry.

Malistrum leaned forward in his chair.

'Open fire,' he commanded in a calm, emotionless voice.

The enemy captain had made his last mistake in this battle. It was so simple, so textbook. The Vetrix rose from orbit to engage the Opportunity, all the while staying within the protective range of the surface batteries. The ship obviously believed that the combined firepower of the cannons and its own weapons would eventually wear down and destroy the Fatemakers. It was not a false assumption, even though Malistrum had manoeuvred his own ship in a way that the Vetrix always stood firmly between the batteries and the space Marine vessel, negating the advantage the surface cannons altogether. A cat and mouse game had started, where the Vetrix was doing its best to move out of the firing line and the Opportunity was copying her enemy's every move, keeping it under her as an extra shield should the battery commander on the planet decide to fire anyway.

The Vetrix did its best to lose the Opportunity. It tried sharp turns, dives and jump starts to mislead its opponent, to no avail. It was careful not to move out of the batteries' firing range. Whatever happened, however high it climbed, it made sure it stayed low enough for the cannons to reach past it.

It was still within the cannons' range. The Opportunity, however, was not. She climbed steadily away from the orbit in all the manoeuvring, and although the two ships could still exchange fire and the Vetrix was still within range for the surface cannons to reach it, Malistrum's ship was too high. He could shoot the Vetrix, the Vetrix could shoot him with its weaker weapons, but the surface forces could no longer hit him.

He used to refer to the enemy as pirates, but pirates would be clever enough not to fall for this trick. The heretics tried to play a game they were not prepared for at all, and now they would pay.

The Opportunity's weapons tore into the Vetrix. Ogryns were bawling in the loading caverns as their bombardment cannons hurled magma projectiles into the prow and upper decks of the enemy. Explosions large enough to wreck a hive city blew off the enemy bridge sections from the ship ship, and the crew around Malistrum cheered as one. The Vetrix emitted a last, agonising scream as it shot its last load of corrupted machine spirits at the Opportunity's systems.

Nothing happened. Not even the lights went out. The Opportunity was not designed to make sound of her own, but there was a triumphant tone in the rumbling of her loading mechanisms as she prepared to fire again.

Malistrum did not say a word. He had nothing to say to his enemy. He merely watched the death throes of the Vetrix and allowed a thin smile at the cheer his crew made as the deck under them trembled slightly and the final salvo was launched towards the dyeing foe.

It was the sudden brightness which woke him up.

Sergeant Andorias blinked twice in quick succession. The after-image which the flash burned into his retina faded and he saw that he was lying on his back, looking at the sky above him.

He realized that he could only see the sky because the systems in his helmet switched back on.

He raised his arms. The servos in his power armour groaned and buzzed, but he managed to turn over and push himself up from the ground. He stood up uncertainly. For the third time in this battle, he felt dizzy and disoriented.

His Astartes training kicked in and battle conditioning took over. His head cleared and he could focus on this surroundings well enough to understand what was going on around him.

It was not an easy task. The battle was still raging, although there was no fighting in the immediate area around him. There was no discernible pattern in the shooting, and what little communication went on in his vox suggested that the engagement had become a brawl with neither side able to form a cohesive strike against the other.

He shook his head and was rewarded with a jolt of pain. He started to move more carefully now. He turned and saw the smoking wreck of the Warhound lying on the ground, half-buried into the side of a ruined building.

He should have felt pride. He had become a dual Titan-killer. He felt nothing.

He took stock of his wargear. He had lost his pistol, and the rest of the melta-charges got torn off his belt when the falling Titan threw him on the ground. At least he still had his chainsaw. He turned it on, swung it and grunted with disappointment. The sword worked, but his armour moved painfully slowly, almost at 60% efficiency. At the beginning of the battle, he chose regular power armour and jump pack because the mission demanded it, but he would have appreciated the extra protection of the bulky Terminator armour. Now he was wearing an armour which slowed him down and offered only mediocre protection.

He was not in the mood to feel despair. He listened to his vox channel again to have a feel of the overall situation. The battle was chaotic, but it seemed that only one of the Warhounds was still walking. With their superior tactical sense, his brothers would eventually manage to group together, and then...

He froze. A familiar voice cut into the vox-chatter.

'Got stuck in the felt flank. Two hundred metres from Andorias's Warhound at ten o'clock. Could appreciate some help.'

The voice belonged to Sergeant Essen. He was in trouble, that much was certain: he would not have bothered with a vox message if he could have handled his enemies alone. Andorias knew him that much to understand this.

'It is an illusion that I am the only one who could lead Strike Force Four,' Malistrum said. 'There have been leaders before me, and there will be others. What a new leader need is unanimous support from the officer cadre, and the unanimous support of the attached specialists.'

The Sergeant blinked, and this small, insignificant movement seemingly pushed his into action. He limped to the north-west, towards the place where his fellow officer was fighting for his life. Behind his visor, his eyes were scanning his surroundings with cold, determined eyes. The rubble from the buildings around him blocked easy access, but enough roof-tops remained to allow him to leap onto them.

He activated his jump-packs and rose in the air. He arrived on the roof-top with an ugly crushing sound, and he had to flail with his limbs awkwardly for a second to regain balance. The internal systems of his armour were more damaged than he thought.

He grunted and forced his body to move his armour faster. He was a coward to put this off so long between him and Essen. It would end now.

A few hundred meters away from the fallen Titan, Essen pushed a fresh magazine into his weapon and started to shoot immediately.

He only had one scout with him now: Loriant, the young Belandon initiate. The rest had died or got separated from the duo when the second Warhound had been trying to shake Sergeant Hemethor off him. That Titan was lying on the ground now, thrashing harmlessly in the dirt, but its panicked rush and leaps had also managed to devastate the area and break up the attacking Fatemakers just as surely as a coordinated counter-strike would have. The raging war machine first chased them off the roof, then waded into them, splitting his group in two and pushing them further away from the main group.

They were alone, but the enemy was not. As they had been trying to go round the buildings and join the fight, they had managed to bump into a fresh group of heretic soldiers, no doubt some reserve force sent to assist the three Warhounds. They had managed to shoot their way through them, but now they were effectively tied down between a pile of rubble and an intact wall section.

The enemy did not show any tactical intelligence, probably due to the fact that Essen had wisely made the decision of consciously killing all the officers and the one Magos leading them. The heretic tech-priests did obviously not bother to programme individuality into their machines as they had reverted to attacking the Fatemakers in small but aggressive waves. It had quickly become routine: Essen decimated the incoming enemy, Loriant boiled those few who managed to get close enough with his melta gun, and Essen finally cracked the skull of the last survivor with the butt of his rifle. The two of them had already killed dozens this way, and they could have killed a lot more, but Essen was running out of ammunition. He had used up all his bolt rounds for the boltgun, and he had only a few shots left in his precious semi-Exitus. As good as he was, he needed bullets to kill from afar.

Another wave was about to hit them. Essen shot the first three Skitarii and laid the semi-Exitus down on the rubble. He had to conserve ammunition.

'Time for you to earn your keep, initiate,' he grunted

Essen was already dead by the time Andorias had arrived. Not physically, no: the Sergeant was still fighting and making decent kills. Even though, he was cut off from any reinforcement and with the number of enemies he was facing, his demise was inevitable.

Andorias looked down at his fellow officer from the rooftop behind him. Essen put down his rifle and pulled out his combat knife to meet the incoming enemy. The last remaining initiate cut down a few of the attackers with his meltagun, and then the rest of them reached the Fatemakers.

Andorias did not move. He watched on as Essen slashed left and right with his knife and gained a little space around him as he killed two enemy soldiers. He stabbed a third one and buried the knife into his throat when he refused to die right away. The next enemy hurled himself at him, and Essen had to push his head away before he could reach his throat. The Scout-Sergeant may have been good with a gun, but he was rather weak at close-combat.

‘Which Sergeant are you proposing?’ Uskovich asked Captain Malistrum.

‘We need a strong one for this task,’ he replied. ‘Sergeant Gorski and Hemethor are fine officers, but they miss the sheer determination to lead more than a squad. We need someone who has a clear goal, and is able to see the path which leads directly towards that goal.’

‘Essen, then?’ Uskovich continued.

Andorias shook his head and snarled. The chainsword came to life and roared in his hand as the Sergeant activated his jump pack and leaped into the fray.

For a brief second, Essen though a grenade had exploded next to him.

Something fast hit the ground in front of him with enough force to send a shockwave through the combatants. The last few soldiers in the attack wave were hurled away from him and Loriant. A body hit him and almost knocked him over, and only his battle-conditioning saved him from actually falling over on the ground. His autosenses kicked in and filtered out the flash burned into his retina. Clearing his hearing was a little more difficult, and the Sergeant shook his head wildly to get the dull, buzzing noise out of his ear.

A tall figure was crouching before him, and he instinctively raised his knife before he recognised him.

‘Andorias?’ he croaked.

The other straightened up but said nothing. He was looking directly at him, ignoring the initiate on the ground or the feeble trashing of one of the fallen heretics.

Essen’s head cleared. ‘I didn’t expect to thank you for anything today,’ he murmured, ‘but I do owe you one for this.’ He received no answer, and he frowned. ‘Are you all right?’

Andorias continued to look at him with the active chainsword in his hand. ‘It will be… more difficult than I imagined,’ he finally said.

‘More difficult what?’ Essen asked. He watched the other with caution now.

The chainsword rose. ‘Emperor forgive me, I didn’t want it to end this way.’

‘What are you doing?’ Essen demanded. ‘Why are you…’

The sword rose.

‘Keep on firing!’

It was difficult to say who said, but Techmarine Guztav did not need an order to understand what was to be done. After the fall of the second Titan, the Fatemakers managed to regroup around the last remaining heretic Warhound and the Mechanicus troops protecting it. The Titan stopped striding around the buildings, and it was only moving along a group of burnt-out houses while it and the other heretics were firing wildly at the Space Marines and their allies.

Bottled in, the Warhound would have been an easy target if they had had the heavy weaponry to kill it. The heavy weaponry was gone, however: the tanks which arrived with the attackers were mostly blown up, half the Space Marines were shot or buried under the rubble, and the human and Ogryn auxilia simply lacked the punching force to bring down the Titan. With the only available psyker, Librarian Akichi waging a pitched battle with a larger flanking force, the main battle had simply become a slugfest with as many people killed on the Fatemakers’ side as on the enemy’s. Unless something changed quickly, Strike Force Four would be whittled away here.

Guztav knew that the void shields on the Warhound were weakening, and the Fatemakers only needed a few solid hits on the beast to bring it down. He also knew from his tactical display that they had the tool needed for the job. One Land Raider was still intact, and it was positioned relatively safe behind the main enemy line. It would only take a turn and it would manage to catch the war engine completely unguarded on its back.

The Land Raider refused to move, however. At the beginning of the engagement, it simply drove around the combat area in a wide circle and stopped in a nearby street. It was still standing there, immobile but with its engines still running.

Guztav opened a link to the Land Raider.

‘Land Raider Three?’ static noise was his only answer. Guztav tried again. ‘Land Raider Three? Tank Commander Miklas, report!’

Andorias raised his sword and took off the head of the last surviving soldier on the ground. Then he turned back to Essen, who made a step backwards and held the combat knife in front of him.

‘Are you mad?’ he hissed. ‘The hell are you swinging that thing in front of me?’ Essen cocked his head aside with an expression of complete befuddlement, then he burst out again. ‘What is your problem?’

The he looked past Andorias and his expression changed.


Another group of soldiers ran at them, this time accompanied by Metal Men. ‘Time to do some damage, then,’ the Scout-Sergeant said and reached for his gun, his anger forgotten in the face of danger. Loriant likewise grabbed his melta gun more firmly.

Andorias looked back over his shoulder and watched the enemy as they approached them.

‘I agree,’ he said. ‘Cover me one last time.’

Essen had no time to say anything before the other Sergeant turned and counter-attacked the heretics. He saw with wide eyes just how clumsily Andorias was moving in his armour and swore as he realized that the heretics would kill the Space Marine as soon as he reached them.

Andorias heard gunshots from behind him and saw the first enemies topple in front of him. Cobalt Manoeuvre, of course. They had practised it enough, and the Scout-Sergeant did not fail to deliver his peculiar off-the-cuff headshots this time, either. Essen really was that good, he though while he raised his sword. Although, apparently, he was not good enough for some people.

‘Essen?’ Malistrum shook his head. ‘No, he is not the right one. He has the experience and he would be a capable leader, but we are going to need more than just a leader now.’

He looked at the Chaplain.

‘Do you realize just how little chance we have of catching up with the reserve fleet? We are one spaceship, trying to find a few other vessels with no reference to space or time. We would be better off going to Terra directly, and we would still probably miss the rest of the Chapter. We are facing a search that will take decades. Decades, Chaplain. We will move through a crumbling Imperium with all the warring, misery and injustice that the mortals will undoubtedly cause to themselves. Saint Menthas. The Ongoliant Triangle. Now Faramuntibus. A thousand similar suffering planets are waiting for us, pleading for our help. If we stop, we will not move again. We would become stranded in some local conflict to help the humans – which is precisely our job, I might add. Sergeant Essen would definitely stop, I can tell you that much.’

He shook his head. ‘This is exactly why I don’t want to appoint him as my successor. He would be the solid choice, but he would not place the mission ahead of all our other interests. He would stop and help, and he would not even consider abandoning other people – which is what we need to do if we want to maintain the integrity of the Chapter. We have already discussed this.’

Uskovich nodded. ‘We have already sacrificed too much to get this far. There has already been a suicide among our ranks, I almost broke down completely and the strike force started to doubt itself. To stop now would mean accepting failure, and we would lose the only thing that keeps us together.’

‘Precisely. Which is why Essen will not be the next Captain.’

‘Who then?’

Andorias cut the first enemy in half. There was no finesse in his strike, but his anger and desperation gave him the strength to kill while encumbered. He raged and cut and slashed through the attackers, moving slowly but never stopping for a single moment. He would have died at least three times if the enemies he missed had not been shot by Essen’s semi-Exitus. He killed without paying attention to his foes, his eyes misty with tears, the ominous words that effectively sentenced him to death playing out in his head for the thousandth time.

‘Sergeant Andorias is our man. He is content being a rank and file officer, but he is dutiful and determined enough to carry out an order, even if it conflicts his original tasks. He will lead on the task force even in my absence.’

‘He will hate it,’ Chaplain Uskovich protested. ‘He is a good officer, but he is not an independent thinker. He will not be able to devise elaborate plans on his own.’

‘He will have help, and he won’t need to be flexible or elaborate,’ the answer came. ‘It is exactly his single-mindedness that I will count on.’

Uskovich sighed. ‘He will lose a lot of men, and he will hate it.’

‘It will be suffering for him,’ Malistrum agreed. ‘I cannot help it. We all need to make sacrifices. Sergeant Andorias will become Captain Andorias, and the fate of Strike Force Four will rest on his shoulders. He will hate it, and he will be forced to send his brothers to their death, which he will hate even more, but he is the right man for the job, and…’ Malistrum’s voice seemed to falter for a second, ‘… he respects and loves me. If I ask him to do it… if I explain why it is needed… he will take up this burden.’

Andorias cried out in anguish. He cleaved a Metal Man’s head in half and completely ignored the pain when his enemy’s claws ran into his right shoulder pad. His tactical display went red with half a dozen warning signs and his arm became limp as all servos stopped moving and his armour became a metal shackle instead of a second companion. He cared nothing for it. He raised the arm using his own muscles and struck the last but one enemy in the line like he would have used a mace. Metal and bone splintered alike, and the Skitarii bent backwards at an impossible angle.

The skull of the last enemy split open from a headshot.

‘I’m out! Andorias, get clear!’

He heard it with his own ears, not with the vox-system inside his helmet, Andorias realized. This meant that the helmet split open and the vox broke down at the same time. He wavered drunkenly as new systems went dark inside his armour and his entire right side of his body went numb.


He looked up. Even through his slowly failing visor, he saw what was coming for him. It was a servitorized Ogryn, the type with the flagellant-like mechadendrites. This one looked injured too, and it had obviously been wandering around the battlefield until the noise drove it here.

‘Get clear, you idiot!’ Essen was shouting again. He would not shoot this thing for sure: as good as he was, he still needed ammunition to shoot from his rifle. Andorias watched the monster’s arms starting to flail as the brute accelerated and ran at him.

‘Do you understand how important this is, Chaplain?’ Malistrum asked. ‘You have to support him. His person divides the officers, but I see no better candidate at the moment than him. You have to support him. You have to put all your weight behind him – at his election and later too. Can I count on you?’

Uskovich nodded gravely.

‘I will support him, as you ask.’

Andorias exhaled. He ignored the last warning shout of Essen. He did not try to move away or evade in any way. He merely braced himself, leaned forward and activated his jump-pack.

It was a clumsy attack with no sign of his long decades of experience. It mattered little. The jump pack gave him enough momentum to reach the flagellant. The armour died on him at the last second, but even so, he had enough time to aim through his failing visor. He held his arm and his sword out while the brute lashed forward with its tentacles.

The main mechadendrite went clean through the Space Marine’s chestplate at the same time the chainsword embedded itself in the brute’s head.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 56)

Postby librisrouge » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:10 pm

Great stuff. I especially love the seeming turnaround in Andorias' mind that I frankly did not see coming. Well done.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 56)

Postby Midgard » Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:05 pm

I agree, the Andorias sequence was a surprising twist I did not expect. This novel is truly one of the better things set in WH40K and its multiple derivations that I have read, and I cannot give you enough credit. It has been extremely entertaining so far, and I really love what you have done with this setting, and with this Chapter.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 56)

Postby qah » Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:24 am

Can we get a "This is awesome!" chant going?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 56)

Postby Meaneye » Thu Dec 26, 2013 12:11 am

Merry Christmas everyone!

There will be at least one more update before the end of this year.


Essen almost screamed the name. The brute jerked wildly as its main nervous centre died and automated moor function took over. It flicked Sergeant Andorias off its tentacle as if he weighted nothing, and the Fatemaker officer flew against the nearby wall in a cloud of blood and viscera.

Essen snatched the meltagun from the hand of his scout and ran at the monster while still screaming. The brute’s appendages were whirling like crazy now, but he did not care. He leapt aside at the last moment and fired the gun at the shoulder-joint of the brute at point blank range. The superheated blast tore off the tentacles from the right side of the monster, and the flailing appendages fell on the ground lifelessly. The brute was already dead, and this wound did not affect it in any way, but only its left tentacles were whirling blindly now, which imbalanced and toppled it immediately.

Essen ran around the brute and dashed towards the ruined body of his battle brother. He threw the gun down, grabbed the Sergeant by the shoulder and heaved. Andorias was not moving, and his armour was just dead weight on him, but Essen was a transhuman Astartes with the musculature to match. He slowly pulled the other away fro the thrashing monster.

In its wild jerking, the brute started to roll towards them again. Essen swore and pulled harder. Suddenly, a new pair of hands grabbed the wounded Space Marine. It was Loriant, the scout initiate, and the two of them finally managed to pull Andorias away before the brute landed at the wall and pulverized the rockcrete where they had been just a few seconds earlier.

The back-up power sources in the monster’s limbs exhausted themselves shortly afterwards, but Essen did not care about that any more. He and Loriant sat Andorias up and unclasped the helmet on the Sergeant’s head. The Sergeant’s head was trembling, and it was enough to have one look at his bloodshot eyes to see that he was about to pass out for good. Essen looked down at the chestplate and groaned. Even with two hearts, enhanced lungs and extra organs, the Sergeant would not possibly survive.

The two officers locked eyes, but nobody said anything for a while: Essen was snarling wildly while Andorias was obviously struggling to stay conscious for a little longer.

‘Bloody hell,’ Essen finally sighed. ‘You have done crazy things before, but this was something new. What got into you?’

Andorias swallowed. ‘It had to be,’ he said.

‘Had to be my arse!’ Essen cried. He looked as if he was about to slap the dying Space Marine in his arms. ‘What were you thinking attacking that thing alone? Were you that tired of living?’


Essen paused.

‘What did you say?’

‘I wanted… to kill myself…’

The trio seemed to be frozen in time. The only movement were Loriant’s eyes darting between the two Astartes on the ground.

Essen exhaled slowly. ‘Explain,’ he said.

Andorias swallowed. ‘I overheard the Captain… and the Chaplain… in the armoury before the Captain went to duel with the Howling Griffon… They were talking about who could replace the Captain if he had fallen in the duel… there were only two candidates.’ He sniffed, almost like a man on the verge of crying. ‘You were one… but the Captain said no to you… he wanted me to be the next Captain…’

Andorias stopped and heaved for a second. Essen looked at him with an open mouth.

‘That’s it?’ he asked in disbelief. ‘You heard that Malistrum wanted to appoint you and you…’

He waved uncertainly with his hand over the ruined body of his fellow officer. Andorias could not answer right away as he started to heave again.

‘By the Throne, dying… hurts,’ he gasped in the end. He shook his head. ‘The Captain said I knew my duty better than you… that you would not chase the reserve fleet at all costs… you would not ignore every mortal world in trouble… you would eventually stop. I was a better candidate… my vision was narrow enough…’

He started to chuckle, but he stopped when he coughed up some blood. Essen looked at him with clear desperation on his face. Then his eyes hardened.

‘Check the area, initiate,’ he grunted to Loriant. ‘I want to speak with him alone.’

Loriant obeyed. Essen waited until the scout got far enough, then he turned back to Andorias.

‘You don’t care about mortals, Andorias,’ he told the other. ‘You never have. You would not want to die for their sake.’

Andorias nodded weekly. ‘I would not. I don’t care about them… not really… but I care for our brothers. I care for the Chapter…’

He coughed again. Essen estimated the other Astartes would die within a minute. His body had already given up; it was only the iron will of the Space Marine Sergeant which forced his burning synapses and failing organs to carry on.

‘I can command people to death… even my own brothers. My own brothers, Essen! I have done it! But now...’

Even this outburst took much of Andorias’s energy away, and his next few words were barely audible. Essen listened to him, then he simply nodded.

‘I know this.’

‘You know I’m right…’

Essen nodded again. ‘You are right.’

‘And I wanted no part of it.’ Adorias looked like he was about to cry. ‘I couldn’t preside over this… not even for him. I didn’t have it in me, and it ate me up… from the inside. I tried to go on, but I could not… and now look at me. I effectively killed myself… I am no better than Pelidor… a coward and a failure…’

Essen had nothing to say to this. He merely sat there, cradling his battle-brother in his arm and looking at him with sad eyes. Andorias took a last deep breath.

‘You have to stop him,’ he gasped. ‘Malistrum. I could never… not even in disobeying him… but you are different. You can defy him, and now the Chapter needs you… the Chapter needs a new direction… you can provide it.’ He grabbed the other’s arm weekly. ‘He was wrong… you are the right person for this… take command from him… and lead us on… before…’

He had no time to finish his sentence. Essen looked at him for a while before he reached down and closed the eyes of the dead Astartes officer.

‘You poor fool, he whispered. The sound of war was still audible in all direction, but he no longer cared about it. He bowed down and pressed his forehead against the other’s. ‘You poor, miserable fool.’

‘Tank-Commander Miklas! Report to me! That’s an order!’

Techmarine Guztav could not feel panic or fear, but he could still be desperate, and this was certainly a desperate situation. The shooting had become a true stalemate, with the Warhound being the one factor which would eventually tip the balance in the heretics’ favour. He did not even need his enhanced processing capabilities to see how it would end now: the two sides would whittle each other down and the war engine would remain standing in the end, allowing the remaining heretics to gather around it and carve through the last pockets of Fatemakers in the camp.

Unless Miklas intervened. The tank-commander was standing idly with his completely intact tank just outside the shooting area, as if binding his time – or perhaps still deciding whether to join battle at all. Guztav did not understand it, but he knew just what would happen without the Land Raider’s help.

‘Tank-Commander!’ he shouted into the vox one last time. He would have gladly moved to Miklas’s position to personally see what was wrong, but he was effectively forced into cover by the enemy guns. One officer on the other side must have decided that he would be a worthy target, and a significant portion of the incoming fire was directed at him personally.

The vox crackled. ‘Miklas here,’ a voice said, and Astartes or not, Guztav suddenly felt somewhat relieved.

‘Tank-Commander, you must attack the Warhound. Now,’ he talked into his vox-piece. He pushed a fresh magazine into his bolt weapon and prepared to fire back at the enemy.

There was a slight pause on the other side. ‘Why?’ the reply finally came.

This reply made Guztav pause in turn. ‘Why?’ he asked incredulously. He let off a short burst from his gun towards the enemy and jumped back to cover. ‘The Warhound’s shields are almost down. We can keep them at low energy with small arms fire, but we need your tank’s weapons to force it down completely. You have to attack it now before it reinforces the shields!’

‘Dou you ant me to attack it?’

‘Yes, I want you to attack it! Break up the shield and we can charge and kill it, just bring down the shields! We may win this within a minute!’

‘Would it be worth it?’

‘What?’ Guztav moved position as the enemy fire focused on his position and broke down the rubble he was crouching behind. ‘Repeat, Tank-Commander!’

‘Would it be worth it?’ the question came again. ‘Would it be worth all the sacrifices?’

Guztav leaned out and returned fire with his bolter. ‘What sacrifices?’ he shouted into his vox.

‘The sacrifice of us, mortals. The sacrifice of all the people you turned into servitors.’ Miklas was now hissing in a low, ominous voice. ‘The sacrifice of my son. Is it worth it? Is my son worth it? Did you deserve my son’s sacrifice?’

Guztav had no real experience how humans work, but Miklas’s voice made him stop for a second. ‘We all make sacrifices,’ he started cautiously. ‘Your son sacrificed himself for the Chapter which he was part of. If we lose here today, his sacrifice will be for nothing.’

‘Nothing,’ Miklas repeated into the vox. Guztav leaped into cover again as heavy weapon fire chased him from behind the rubble. He let off a few shots as he ran and he killed at least two of the enemy. It was inconsequential when compared to the war engine towering over them.

‘So this is all we will get.’ Miklas’s voice was calm and quiet now.

‘This is all we will all get,’ Guztav said. He pressed his back against a section of the wall which remained mostly intact. ‘Astartes or mortal, we have to make our own fate. ’

There was a heavy sigh at the other end of the vox-line. ‘Then I hope my sacrifice will be worth it just like my son’s.’

Guztav frowned. ‘Tank-commander, what do you want to do?’

‘This,’ Miklas simply answered.

The last Land Raider of Strike Force Four turned into the street and lurched forward. Its twin-linked lascannons sizzled and emitted a pair of energy beams into the enemy Warhound, which staggered immediately. Guztav risked a glance from his cover and what he saw astonished him even with his decades of experience.

Two pairs of continuous energy beams linked the Land Raider and the Warhound. It was difficult to see from Guztav’s point of view, but it definitely seemed that the beams fixed themselves firmly upon the same points on the war engine’s shield. The Techmarine knew that the only way the weapon-bound servitors could hold the beam of their weapons so precisely on the target was if the driver helped them by holding the vehicle as straight as he could while he was moving.

Miklas did not do that. He accelerated and made slight curves as he went on. He came up behind the enemy, but he naturally called attention to himself as soon as he fired. Small arms fire tore into the vehicle right away, but the armour held. Guztav realized that the commander must have been giving verbal instructions to his servitor crew as he drove on, warning them well in advance whenever he made a turn and providing them with precise angle changes in their firing lines.

It was a magnificent feat, more worthy of a cogitator than a mortal human. Guztav always knew that Miklas was capable, but this was the first time he saw him in action. At this rate…

There was a sharp, loud noise, and the air around the Warhound swirled. The shield came off, and the beast – a haunched, feral thing with the typical wolf-life cockpit – became visible.

He did it! Guztav was about to order his forces to start firing at the war engine when he realized that the Land Raider did not call off the attack. It stopped firing, but the tank was still accelerating, throwing enemy soldiers left and right as they tried to step in its way. The Warhound staggered for a second, then it started to turn to face the new enemy.

It was only the iron conditioning of a Space Marine which kept Guztav in cover. He was still under fire, albeit much less so than a minute earlier. Even so, he almost jumped forward when he saw what Miklas was about to do. He opened the vox-link hastily, but he had no time to say anything. The Land Raider arrived.

The tank broke through the last knot of enemy soldiers. Two of them even managed to get hold of the vehicle somehow, but before they could do anything, the tank hit the Warhound at its left leg. The two Skitarii popped like a fruit between the adamantium legpiece and the front of the Land Raider, and the impact of the crash virtually swept the leg from under the war machine. The last heretic Titan swayed like a drunkard and tripped over.

Guztav’s eyes opened wildly behind his visor. The war machine fell directly on top of Miklas’s Land raider. It arrived knee first and dented the front of the tank like it was made of tinfoil. Having destroyed the cockpit section, it somehow stayed up, with its legpiece wedged into Fatemaker vehicle. It emitted a metallic shriek, not unlike its two brother machines when they were brought down. The remaining heretic forces echoed its shriek with their own as the last of their god-machines were about to fall.

Except the monster refused to fall. It pressed hard on the ground with its right foot and yanked the left one. The leg and the crippled tank both rose from the ground a few inches, but they immediately crashed back on the ground. The war machine whined and jerked to get free.

Guztav looked around wildly. The shooting still continued, and although the Fatemakers now had the opportunity, they still lacked the firepower to cut themselves through the remaining enemies to get to the war machine. The noises from the Warhound made the Techmarine wince, but no matter how tortured it seemed, it still remained intact enough to actually try to free itself.

The Astartes checked the tactical display as a last resort, and he froze. There was still one possible option to bring down the Warhound. It would not have worked with the shield, but now…

‘Thunderhawk One, this is Techmarine Guztav. Report.’

‘Thunderhawk One reporting.’ The voice was slightly distorted but otherwise audible. Guztav checked its position again on his helmet display and nodded to himself.

‘The Warhound needs to be put down. Wreck it.’

‘Our main battle cannon is damaged,’ the answer came. ‘We cannot give you heavy give fire support.’

‘I know,’ Guztav answered. He saw this data on his display. He cast a last glance towards the wreck of Miklas’s Land Raider, and went on. ‘Ram it.’

There was a moment of silence, and Guztav tensed. Then the answer came.

‘We obey.’

The booming noise of an incoming Thunderhawk filled the air. Guztav looked on as the plane swept over his head and went straight for the Warhound. It did not simply crash into the war machine: it exploded on impact and hurled the proud metal beast back into a building. The Warhound and the Land Raider finally came apart, and the tank fell back on the ground, spinning wildly while the Warhound literally bore itself into the side of the rock-crete walls.

The sound of the explosion and the double crash was deafening. A thick sheet of dust and smoke covered the area, and for a few seconds, all shooting stopped. As the dust started to settle, a single noise filled the air.

The sound of falling debris. A nearby pile or ruins moved, and dark figures pushed themselves to the surface. The Terminators who had been buried under the rubble at the beginning of the Titan attack finally managed to claw their way out.

Ten minutes later, the battle of Khadmus IV the heretic camp was effectively over.

Eight minutes after the battle.

His servo-arms helped a lot. Even though the Land Raider was a ruin, the metal plating was still in place, and it virtually fused together above the cockpit in a way that made normal access impossible.

Techmarine Guztav grabbed the two shorn halves of the plate with his hands and pulled them apart while his servo-arm widened the gap. The metal let out only gradually, and it took a tremendous effort to carve through it. Cutting through with plasma-torches or a melta would have been simpler, but Guztav did not want to risk it.

The plate came apart with a final screech. The Techmarine glanced into the cockpit and froze for a second. He made an uncertain movement with his hand, as if to try and pull something out from the ruins, but his motion stopped half-way through. Slowly, he pulled his hand back, and, after a moment of hesitation, he folded the plates back on.

Silence and darkness ascended on the cockpit.

Twenty-two minutes after the battle.

‘Is this a moral threat?’

Librarian Akichi did not reply at once. In fact, he did not even turn to face his battle-brother. He was simply standing with his eye fixed on the large ominous object.

‘Moral any physical,’ he eventually said. ‘We will leave this cave and we will not come back. We will seal the entrance immediately after we left. Use simple explosives, not energy weapons, although I doubt that would make any difference with all the times we used them above. Still, we will take no risk.’

‘The Captain may want to examine this place,’ the battle-brother protested.

‘No, he will not.’ Akichi turned back to him, stone-faced. ‘He will not come down here even if the final secret of the reserve fleet is hidden here. We will search the camp above, take what we find and then…’

‘… move on,’ the other finished his sentence.

Akichi shook his head. ‘Not before we torch the place from orbit. We will tear up the mantle with lance weapons and bury this thing in the magma core of this world. Then we leave beacons to warn anyone who may come here in the next ten thousand years to go away. And then we will leave.’

The Astartes looked at the object. It did not look much: a dark metal pyramid-like edifice with several runes etched along the surface. It remained surprisingly intact, although the way it was embedded in solid rock at the bottom suggested that it had been here for an unhealthily long amount of time. The Space Marine looked up and saw a large crystal-like object on top of the whole thing, although it was difficult to see it properly from this angle and distance.

The pyramid was several hundred feet tall, and there was no indication that the Mechanicus excavation team got anywhere close to the base of it as they slowly dug it out. The Astartes had the distinct feeling that the pyramid would continue down a long, long way more.

‘By your command,’ he said.

Thirty-three minutes after the battle.

Chaplain Uskovich was bare-headed. There were still kill-teams among the ruins hunting for the last few heretic survivors, but this area was deemed safe, and at any rate, he was performing a sermon here. The people deserved to see his face.

Even if this gesture meant nothing to them any more.

In front of him, the last 167 survivors of the freshly servitorized crew were standing in neat ranks of ten. The battle took a fearsome toll on them, and most of those who lived were damaged in some way. Uskovich saw scorched skin, missing limbs and bleeding cuts wherever he looked. The two lines at the back were sitting or even lying on the ground, and the Chaplain knew that even those who survived the battle unscathed would pass away in a week’s time. The surgery which turned them into automated fighters had to be rushed and flawed, and for these people, death was a guaranteed certainty.

There were differences between death and death, however. Uskovich nodded to Sergeant Hemethor, who stepped forward.

‘You have served us well in the battle.’ The Sergeant’s voice carried effortlessly to the furthest ranks. Almost two hundred pairs of empty eyes were fixed upon him. ‘You would deserve to live forever, but we do not have the power to grant you that. We can grant you the Emperor’s Peace instead. We will remember your deeds, and as long the Chapter survives, you will live forever in our memories!’

Empty silence greeted his words. The servitors did not hear, did not know, did not care. Hemethor stepped back and signalled his men, who stepped forward with their guns aimed at the first rank. Uskovich started to pray.

Imperator nobis qui nos protegit…

The Astartes opened fire. One shot in the head, clean and quick. This was the last favour they could grant their soldiers: the Emperor’s Peace, the final release from service. The servitors would have taken their own lives, or they would have stayed motionless until their bodies failed, and it would have made no difference. This was more for the Space Marines’ need for closure and protocol than for their own benefit.

Uskovich continued to pray, losing himself in the familiar words, closing himself to any outside stimulus. Even without his Astartes conditioning, this almost helped.

The third row contained a very familiar face. Uskovich close his eyes shut and continued to pray at the top of his voice.

It almost helped.

Thirty-nine minutes after the battle.

The first casualty lists arrived. Malistrum read the dataslate without much facial expression. Finally, he looked up and sighed heavily.

‘Anchor the Opportunity above the camp and send down the landers,’ he ordered. ‘Then contact Magos Brakk. Let us see what we bought with the blood of our brothers.’

The final tally of the battle was staggering. Thirty-four battle-brothers had died during the engagement, with another eight wounded to the point where they would never take up arms again. The Ogryns, the human auxiliary and the Mechanicus troops had been similarly mauled. The loader clan would lose its legendary effectiveness, and the regular mortal crew of the Opportunity sank below a thousand souls. The damage done to the vehicles and the equipment of the strike force was even worse. Virtually no armoured vehicle or fighter remained in the Fatemaker arsenal, most Tactical Dreadnought armours were ruined beyond repair and perhaps a handful of the Assault Marines escaped with their jump packs still functioning. Gorski, Andorias and other valuable officers and specialists were lost to the Chapter for good.

There was no reported death or injury aboard the spaceship herself.

The Astartes did not mourn. They had no time for it. With the discovery of the Necron edifice under the surface, it became even more urgent to strip the place of the necessary information and leave. In their hurry, the search-teams decided to forgo the usual protocols and start looking for clues at the most obvious places first: the central buildings at the back of the compound.

In the third hour of the search, one of the teams found a workshop in the basement. The tech-priests were reluctant to turn on any of the machinery there, but the back of the hall was full of all kinds of equipment of Astartes origin, no doubt plundered from the wreck of the Chad-Okhlam. Cataloguing them would have taken weeks, so the crew did the obvious again and sorted out the most intact memory units first.

Two hours into the selection, the crew came upon the motherload. It was a servitor unit, damaged but intact in its head, the one place which mattered to the team. It used to be a cargo loader, no doubt attached to one of the hangar bays of the Chad-Okhlam: a crude construct of little value, save for the automated recording system which was built into every Fatemaker servitor on all ships of the Chapter. The team attached the head’s datacore to a projector, and played the last recording.

Four minutes after the recording started, the team-leader stopped the projector and sent an urgent message to the Opportunity. Three minutes after that, the team grabbed the servitor body and took it to a lander waiting outside. At the same time, all Astartes officers received orders to board the lander and meet the Captain at once.

Strike Force Four had sacrificed a lot in this battle, and not only in the material sense. Everybody expected some result for their effort, and now they received just that result. Thanks to the recordings of the servitor, Captain Malistrum and his brother finally learned not only what happened to the Chad-Okhlam, but they also received the long-sought answer of why the reserve fleet had left its position and headed for Terra in the first place.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 57)

Postby librisrouge » Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:16 am

...because the cake on Terra is awesome?

Sarcasm aside, I really can't wait to see how this unfolds. Great stuff again.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 57)

Postby Meaneye » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:58 am

Another episode. I cannot in good conscience promise to upload a new one (which would also close this part of the story) before the end of the year, but we will see :D

The servitor had no name. It had a designation, but it never thought about it as nobody used its identity number to address it. Life for it was simple enough: the universe was a medium-sized hangar of various spacecraft and equipment arranged along the walls. Every now and then, somebody would come and give it an order, to which it reacted and did what was asked, usually in the form of putting heavy crates on top of other heavy crates. The servitor had no concept of the inverted ‘Q’-letter etched on the wall, the significance of the power-armoured soldiers who sometimes visited the hangar or the fact that the hangar belonged to a ship called the Chad-Okhlam. It was simply a loader servitor the task of which was to put crates on one another.

This was exactly the task it was doing when the small group of Astartes warriors marched into the hangar. The leader of them was highly decorated and was accompanied by an Astartes in black with a helmet that formed a skull, but this meant just as little to the servitor as the vary deference the other people gave him as he passed them. The Servitor cast an indifferently look at them and it reached for another crate when some commotion started at the door of the hangar.

A new group of Astartes arrived with a person at the front even the servitor could identify. It was the captain and leader of the vessel, Librarian Berzevicz. The people in the hangar stopped their chores, except for the servitor, which continued to pack the crates.

‘Chapter-Master Fiffito!’ Berzevicz shouted. ‘I believe we need to talk more about your decision.’

‘We will have no talk,’ the leader of the first group answered back over his shoulder.

‘Oh, we will talk some more, Chapter-Master. This will not wait.’

The other Astartes now turned back completely. The servitor was not aware of it, but the look on his face was positively angry. ‘The Dark Torch…’

‘The Dark Torch has been burning for ten thousand years,’ Berzevicz interjected. ‘It can wait for another hour. We need to talk more about this, Chapter-Master.’

‘I have no reason to talk to you about anything, Librarian,’ Chapter-Master Fiffito answered coldly. ‘You were given your orders at the council, just like the others. Carry them out. The time of talk is over.’

‘No, it is not,’ the Librarian said. The servitor had no talent for voices, and it was blind to the tension between the two groups, but the other humans in the hangar were not. Nervous faces were turning to the two groups of Astartes who were now beginning to mix together.

The Chapter-Master looked around. ‘Leave the hangar,’ he said. ‘Every human. Now.’

The faces turned towards the Librarian who nodded in turn. This caused some soft murmur among the Space Marines, but it worked: the people quickly left, leaving only the Space Marines in the hall.

The servitor did not move. Its programming required specific orders aimed at it directly, and this order only concerned humans, which it was not. He finished putting the last crate on top of the pile and stopped, looking at the remaining Astartes to receive new orders. None of them seemed to see or care that it was there.

The two officers were eyeing each other. ‘It is reassuring to know that my word is no longer law aboard this vessel,’ Fiffito started.

‘My people will die for the Chapter or its master,’ Berzevicz retorted, ‘if the master is worthy of their trust in turn.’

‘Mind your tongue, Librarian,’ the skull-helmeted Chaplain warned him. ‘These words may well be interpreted as treason.’

Berzevicz ignored him. ‘The Dark Torch is dangerous.’

‘The Dark Torch is bright,’ Fiffito answered with an expression which suggested that his peer was an idiot. ‘It shines through the Warp like a beacon. Now that the Astronomicon is no more, we can use it to shear off four months of our travel. Four months!’

Berzevicz’s expression mirrored the Chapter-Master’s. ‘The Dark Torch is too bright,’ he said. ‘If we follow it, it will cripple or kill most of our Navigators. What will we do if we get stranded in space with no means to move on?’

‘I am willing to take that risk.’

‘Wold you say the same to your battle-brothers if it happened?’

‘I am speaking with the authority of the whole Chapter! I will decide the best course of action!’

‘I believe you are afraid, Chapter-Master.’ The two people started to circle around each other. The other Astartes formed a loose circle around them, and the two groups blended together even more. ‘I have heard all your reasons why we had to leave the assembly point. Why we had to go to Terra. I believe it was fear that made you leave.’

‘I have heard your reasons myself,’ Fiffito answered. ‘A hundred and a thousand times over. The Emperor is dead? Just like this?’ He snapped fingers contemptuously. ‘No. Just because the Astronomicon went out?’

‘And the death of all our Astropaths? At the fleet and everywhere in the Imperium? And the word of the Navigators? And the Tarot?’

Fiffito barked out a curt laugh. The Chaplain followed suit as did some of the other Astartes, although only half-heartedly. This topic was an uncomfortable one for the whole audience.

‘The Tarot is witchcraft,’ Fiffito declared. ‘The Astropaths died in a psychic attack. Terra is the source of the Astronomicon. It went out, so Terra is in danger. This is what happened, not else. This is why we are going to Terra.’

He made a wide sweep with his arm.

‘When a world goes silent, it is a sign of trouble. The Imperium moves in and helps out. Terra is in danger now. Do you think we are the only fleet heading there? Thousands of ships are going to the same direction as we do! When Terra calls, the Emperor calls. When the Emperor calls, we go. I will sooner think space is blue than believe that Him on Earth could die, but He needs our help, and he will get it!’

Berzevicz stopped circling and the Chapter-Master did likewise. ‘I do not see those ships around us,’ the Librarian snarled. ‘Not a single one of them. They were not assembling at the Corant shipyards. The Merchant Fleets of the Atari Cluster were not mobilizing. The Julianus Crusade fractured and turned on itself. None of them went for Terra.’

‘Because they were heretics, every single one of them,’ the Chaplain retorted.

‘What Chaplain Iolau said,’ Fiffito nodded. ‘This only means they do not know their duty. Not the way we do, but I swear by His name, we will not abandon Him like the rest of this sector!’

Berzevicz raised a finger. ‘Perhaps,’ he started, ‘perhaps the reason why none of them moved out is because unlike you, Chapter-Master, they can face the harsh reality and accept that He is NO MORE!’

He shouted the last words into Fiffito’s face. Angry murmur followed his words on both sides, and the line rippled as people started to argue with one another.

‘I would sooner die than accept it,’ Fiffito retorted angrily once the murmur stopped. ‘I would sooner see this fleet reduced to ash, I would sooner destroy the Chapter myself than accept His death.’ The two of them started to circle again, this time with hunched backs, as if they were preparing for battle. ‘We have nothing without Him. No life, no hope, no future. The moment I accept His death is the moment I lie down and die.’

‘Would you kill the Chapter because you have doubts?’

‘I do not have doubts! My faith is still pure! You are the one whose faith is weak and diluted!’

‘I am a realist,’ Berzevicz answered. ‘Why go to Terra to see what is obvious already? We are going to the wrong direction, and if I am the last one who has the guts to say it, then so be it!’

‘You would go back to the Malachias Sector.’ Fiffito spat on the ground. ‘You would stay there and build a new Astartes Imperium. Sometimes I don’t know whether you are a misguided fool or a base cur.’

‘The cattle is leaderless! We have the chance to act and fill the void. I have said and I’m saying now, our place is in Malachias!’ He pointed at the Chapter-Master. ‘It is still not too late, Fiffito. Turn back and lead us home! We have left a message for the other strike forces, we could find them on the way! The Imperium is doomed, yes. But the sector should not necessarily go down. We have the power to rule and preserve them! To preserve the Chapter!’

Fiffito was roaring now with a red face. ‘What would we preserve at home? An empty empire without our god? What use would it that be?’

Berzevicz straightened and folded his arms. ‘The Emperor is dead. We are the people’s gods now.’

‘Heresy!’ Chaplain Iolau jumped forward and pushed an accusing finger under the Librarian’s voice. Berzevicz pushed his hand away, to which the Chaplain shoved him among the line of Astartes. Another battle-brother pushed the Librarian back and in turn received another shove from the Space Marine standing next to him. The two sides turned towards each other and the proud warriors reduced to a shouting and fist-shaking mob.

The servitor watched in silence. What it saw made no sense to it, but then again, it was only designed to receive simple orders. It was not disturbed by the sight in front of it, and it was not bothered by the twin clicking sound from the middle of the group either.

The group reacted, though. The warriors jumped apart with loud cries, and the servitor saw immediately what caused the new ruckus. There were two Astartes warriors standing opposite each other, bolt pistols aimed at the other’s head.

All noise subsided. ‘Put down your weapons,’ the Chapter-Master ordered.

One of the warriors shook his head. ‘I won’t.’

‘Put down your weapon! That’s an order!’

‘I. Will. Frakking. NOT!’ the other cried. The Fiffito cast a murderous look at the Librarian.

‘Order your man to lower his weapon,’ he said very, very quietly.

‘So your man could kill him,’ Berzevicz stated, equally quietly. ‘He would not be the first brother you execute. Brother Taragash? Chaplain Lao? Do you remember them?’

‘Obey your Chapter Master!’

‘I have no Chapter-Master any more.’

The group of people froze just as much as the servitor was. You could cut the tension with a knife in the hangar.

‘Open your mouth once more, Librarian,’ Fiffito challenged the other. ‘Say any more of your heresy and I swear by the Emperor, I will have you answer for it just as the other traitors have.’

The two men locked eyes. Berzevicz opened his mouth.

There was a loud bang.

Actually, there was a pair of bangs. The servitor was not designed to pay attention to sound, but he knew there were two sounds overlapping. The sound of two boltguns shooting so close to each other that they made one awful noise.

The two Space Marines fell with burst skulls. It was impossible to say which one of them shot first, and at any rate: how do you make difference between two people armoured the same way?

Silence descended on the hangar. For one numb, motionless second, nobody said or did anything.

Then another Fatemaker yanked out his combat blade with a battle-cry and buried it in the throat of another.

This was the sign. The sign of madness. Every Fatemaker in the hangar were carrying weapons: chainswords, bolters or more exotic armament. It only took a moment to turn those weapons against their brothers.

The Fatemaker who knifed his brother had no time to wrench it free: a hard blow on the head from the butt of a bolter sent him to the floor with bleeding head. His attacker in turn was skewered by a lightning claw. He spurted blood on the chestplate of his murderer, but the other Fatemaker already pulled his claws out and spun to slash at another Astartes behind him. The other evaded the cut, and the Fatemaker had no time to cut at him again as two other Fatemakers jumped on his back and pulled him down. One of the Fatemakers fell as a chainsword sliced the top of his head off, but the other pushed the attacking Fatemaker with his sword back into the melee, and turned back to the one with the power claw. He pushed the Fatemaker down on the ground while the Fatemaker first attacked by the power claw raised his foot and stomped on the Fatemaker’s skull with a savage howl.

The head of the Fatemaker came apart at the fourth stomp, but the two Fatemakers were immediately attacked by two other Fatemakers. The first one buried his power blade in the shouting mouth of his Fatemaker opponent, while his partner was in turn was tackled down on the ground. The Fatemaker kneeled above his cursing opponent, folded his arms around his head and yanked savagely.

Even through all the sounds of the battle, the loud crunching noise reached the silent servitor on the other side of the hangar.

The Fatemaker did not wait for the other to chop his head off with the power weapon: he launched forward and caught his opponent in the chest. The two of them fell on each other, kicking and punching the other in a fury worthy of a World Eater.

Both of them reacted to the click of a triggered bolter.

They looked up and rose cautiously. The bolter was in the hand of one of the younger Space Marines from Librarian Berzevicz’s group: a full-fledged battle-brother, who was nevertheless still in his early twenties by human counting. As much as he had fought before in his life, he was not prepared for the sight in front of his eyes, as was evident from the expression on his face.

The other two brothers wore helmets. Their armours made them so similar that it was almost impossible to make a difference between them, certainly not with a confused head.

The two Fatemakers looked at each other, than back at their young brothers. One of them stepped forward.

The young Fatemaker howled in desperation, and opened fire. He cut both Fatemakers in half with the first salvo of his bolter, then he turned and started to pepper the other fighters with single shots. Heads split, blood splashed in the air and people fell. The Fatemaker shouted incoherently as he continued to butcher both sides indiscriminately; he had no idea, but in the few seconds of shooting, he managed to make a kill tally of Space Marines which even a traitor Marine would have been proud of. The Fatemaker shot the last person in sight, and spun on his heel with a scream on his lips.

He ran into the Chapter-Master’s powersword. His eyes opened wide and he dropped his bolter as he looked into the face of his supreme leader from mere inches. Fiffito spat at him and pushed him off his blade. The Astartes fell and the Chapter-Master looked around with murder in his eyes.

The psychic blast hurled him away. He hit the motionless servitor and the two fell on each other. Miraculously, Fiffito did not drop his sword, but as he tried to stand back up, an invisible force grabbed him and pushed him down.

The servitor was lying on its side, but its head was just in the right position to see Librarian Berzevicz approaching. The Librarian’s face was bloody on the left side, but this did not prevent him from holding his psy-staff in front of him, channelling energy into his erstwhile Chapter-Master. Fiffito cried and clawed at his chestplate with his free hand, as if he was about to suffer a heart-attack.

Berzevicz could have killed with his look, and perhaps he was. He stepped forward, and the staff came alight. Fiffito cried in pain, even while pushing himself up to a kneeling position.

‘Traitor!’ he groaned and tried to raise his sword-wielding arm.

‘Tyrant,’ Berzevicz hissed and lowered his staff some more. The Chapter-Master fell back on the ground. His mouth moved silently, and his ear started to bleed.

The Librarian’s head exploded, and Fiffito collapsed like a ragdoll. Chaplain Iolau dropped the bolter with a painful groan. He limped towards the Chapter-Master, and the servitor registered that he was missing an arm. He reached down with his remaining hand and tried to pull the Chapter-Master up.

There was a not unfamiliar rumble around them, and the voxpiece in Fiffito’s collar came alive.

‘Chapter-Master! The Chad-Okhlam has started to fire us! What is happening?’

Fiffito pushed the Chaplain away and stood up like a drunk. He slowly gained his footing, and he shook his head wildly. He looked at the far side of the hangar where the space shuttles were lined up.

‘Kill it,’ he whispered.

‘Brother-Captain?’ the voice on the other side sounded anxious and fearful.

‘Kill the ship!’ He stepped over the lying servitor with the Chaplain at his heel, giving the half-human machine a savage kick in the process. He continued to cry into his vox. ‘Wait until we leave and open fire! Kill the Chad-Okhlam! Kill everyone on board! Shoot the ship until it is a wreck! Kill them, kill them all…’

The recording ended in static and white noise. Magos Brakk stepped to the servitor’s head and gently detached it from the projector. The lights in the conference room came back.

Nobody moved around the table.

‘Emperor preserve us all,’ one of the Fatemaker officers breathed.
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