War raged on The Desolation of Hope. Open, bloody, vicious war. The Deathwatch of Kill-Team Reaper linked up with the Space Wolves, and then the Sororitas. They swept through the hulk and located the Throne Hammers, who were struggling to exfiltrate with the archeotech under the watchful guns of the Catatchans. Against them was an ad-hoc alliance of orks, Chaos… and the tau. It was clear that the tau intended to avenge the loss of their scientist, even if doing so went against their ideals of the Greater Good.
Sergeant Decimus fired his bolt pistol into the head of a raging feral ork, and cursed. He risked a quick look around, and cursed again when he realized the truth: the Mechanicus was nowhere to be seen. “Vox?” he growled.
Brother Ignis shook his head. “Some sort of scrap code is interfering with the vox. We’ve got short range only, but can’t punch through to the Thunder’s Word – or the Mechanicus.
Sergeant Decimus looked over the staggered Imperial line and made a quick decision. He tapped his vox-bead for a broad hail and snapped, “This is Brother-Sergeant Decimus of the Throne Hammers. I’m assuming command of all local Imperial assets, effective immediately. We must coordinate, or we’ll be destroyed!”
A few tense seconds passed as Decimus and his men advanced with the generator, killing orks as they went, until several assents came through – some more reluctant than others. Ignis called out, “The Deathwatch, Space Wolves, Sororitas, and Astra Militarum have agreed. I have nothing from the Blood Angels.” He left unsaid the fact they’d been abandoned by the Mechanicus.
“Good enough,” Decimus said flatly as he shot a feral ork in the eye. The bolt exploded deep in the xenos’s braincase, but the damned ork kept coming for several seconds before its body finally registered it was dead. “What’s everyone’s status?”
Ignis replied, “The Deathwatch and Space Wolves hold the center, but both are drifting towards us on the left flank. The Astra Militarum have the right flank locked down; they have secured vantage points and are clearing all enemy contacts from their kill-zone. However, they risk being cut off if we advance too quickly.”
Decimus grunted but did not slow. “The generator is our only priority. Besides, pressure on the humans will lessen as the enemy comes to us.” Ignis frowned, but said nothing.
“No contact,” Captain Caul said softly to Brother-Captain Lucian Ovidius. “Vox-station reports localized jamming. We can’t get through.”
Lucian tensed slightly as he studied the diagram of The Desolation of Hope. With the vox cut off, large patches of the diagram were fuzzy with no data. “Extrapolate Kill-Team Reaper’s location as best you can. Prep the Corvus Blackstars for extraction of all Imperial forces.”
Captain Caul nodded and turned to relay the order, but was cut off when the tactical officer cried out, “Captain! Port-high quadrant!” Captain Caul’s and Lucian’s head snapped up to the main viewscreen and they saw a xenos ship suddenly ripple into existence and glide away from the hulk.
“Eldar,” Lucian snarled.
“Firing solutions!” Captain Caul bellowed.
The tact-officer shook his head. “No good. They’ve positioned themselves outside macrocannon range and they’re coming up our port flank to stay away from the lance. By the time we turn, they’ll be aft of us and have a clear shot at our engines.”
Captain Caul cursed, but knew her tac-officer was right. The Eldar knew where to be to avoid righteous retribution. “All power to the void shields!”
The tac-officer complied, but then cried out, “Captain! The Mechanicus ship is powering up their engines! They’re moving away from the hulk!”
The sensorium operator interjected, “Energy flare from the Mechanicus ship. Consistent with a teleportarium.”
Lucian eyed the tactical feeds and then turned to Captain Caul. “The Mechanicus are running, away from the hulk and away from us. They have what they came for.”
Caul eyed the display and nodded in agreement. “We can’t intercept them without exposing ourselves to the Eldar.” She hesitated, and then asked, “Orders?”
Lucian responded immediately, “Let them go. Worry about the Eldar first.”
Captain Caul nodded in gratitude and issued a series of clipped orders, preparing Thunder’s Word for the inevitable Eldar broadside. Hatches were sealed, damage control teams readied, and the void shields crackled with additional power. The Eldar vessel drew across their port flank – but it did not fire. The xenos vessel sailed along the Thunder’s Word, clearly relishing the fact they were just outside cannon range. The Eldar vessel then cleared the Thunder’s Word and the vox-operator reported, “Incoming transmission – from the xenos.”
“Insufferable bastards,” Caul mumbled, but Lucian nodded to the vox-operator.
The vox crackled with static as the Thunder’s Word adapted to the Eldar signal, and then a female voice in accented High Gothic declared, “Fio’El Vior’la Eur’ii is dead. Archmagos Tarkani has betrayed you all and fled with the contents of the data core from a pre-Imperial vessel, back when your species still possessed a sense of aesthetics. Your allies have walked into a trap set by the Changer of Ways, where they battle a coalition of the damned, the orks, and the upstarts in a stalemate while the Tzeentchians prepare to detonate warp charges secreted throughout the conglomeration to kill everyone on board. If you want to extract your allies, launch your ugly craft now and follow the signal on this frequency. Remember all this, Brother-Captain Lucian Ovidius of the Ultramarines, seconded to the Deathwatch. Remember this come Perdition Station.” The signal terminated, and the Eldar craft vanished from sensors.
“I really hate them,” Caul growled.
“Launch the Blackstars immediately,” Lucian ordered. “Prepare the warp engines for emergency departure. And will somebody tell me what in Guilliman’s name is Perdition Station?”
“Get some! Get some, you sons of bitches!” Sergeant Cage roared as he gunned down more red-skinned xenos. The creatures slunk away from the Catachans’ kill-box, and loped to the left, clearly unwilling to brave the Imperials’ fire. Captain Greylock nodded in satisfaction as he directed the autocannon to fire at several orks trying to establish a firing line in a nearby building. The battle was being fought over some town built in the depths of the hulk, and the center concourse was a killing zone. A piece of archeotech was nearby, emitting a strangely pleasant hum. Greylock noted that his men fired with much higher accuracy as the device worked. In the back of his mind, some piece of his personality screamed at him that the device was warp-tainted, but Captain Greylock didn’t fully register it.
Along the battlefield, three pieces of archeotech hummed as they enhanced the combatants around them. And as they hummed, they slowly built a stronger and strong warp charge in preparation for a massive detonation that would crack the spine of The Desolation of Hope.
Brother-Sergeant Gennady advanced steadily through the ruins of a pumping station, firing bolt after bolt into the bizarre xenos/Chaos alliance. On his right, the Space Wolves mimicked his advance, wary of a counter-charge by the Khornate daemons rapidly approaching. On his left, the Sisters fought hard, covering the steady advance of the Throne Angels. Ahead, orks and tau fought to keep the Throne Angels pinned down.
Gennady frowned as a sudden thought struck him. Why in the warp would the orks care about human archeotech? These were feral Snakebites, and he didn’t see any of their ‘Mekboyz’ around. The alien/Chaos alliance fought with loose coordination, but coordination just the same. Gennady turned to the right and saw a large ork wearing the colors of the Bad Moonz clan bellowing crude orders – and the tau and Word Bearers adjusted to accommodate.
Now Gennady knew something was wrong. There was no way a Word Bearer would ever deign to take orders from an ork. Yet the alliance was – barely – working together to halt the Throne Hammers. He tapped his vox-bead and bellowed over the din, “All Imperial forces, beware. The enemy is displaying unusual coordination and cooperation. I suspect warpcraft. Any anti-psyker countermeasures you possess, use them.”
Sister Ulma heard the black-clad Astartes words in her ear. At first, she could not accept that the joyous fervor of smiting the Kami-Emperor’s foes could possibly be twisted by the Archenemy, but then she recalled the words of her former Drill-Abbess, dead decades now. She once told Ulma, “Beware the guises of the Archenemy. The Arch-traitor Horus was the Emperor’s favorite son, after all.” Ulma blinked rapidly and started reciting the Litany of Denial, an ancient psalm against witches and their maleficarum. Her sisters joined in, and then, to her surprise, so did the Astartes. The Litany rippled down the Imperial lines, and soon even the coarse Catachans added their voices to the song. Bolstered, the Imperials began to advance, and then a miracle happened.
Amidst the Imperial lines, between the Sororitas and the Deathwatch, the air rippled and then several Astartes stepped through from… somewhere else. These Astartes wore armor the color of night and bore grim talismans of death – and they burned in sepulchral fire. These new Space Marines soundlessly joined the Imperial advance and opened fire with their arcane bolters, each shot blowing a hole through the orks and tau in their way.
The unexpected arrival of the Legion of the Damned tipped the battle firmly in the Imperials’ favor. Both tribes of orks were gunned down without mercy, and the tau began an orderly withdrawal. The Word Bearers and the Khornate dameons fought on longer, but fell to the implacable Imperial advance. Once the Throne Hammers punched through the lines with the generator, the vox-interference suddenly cleared and they all received Brother-Captain Lucian’s warnings. With eyes cleared of warp-trickery, the Imperials looked around – and recognized the three pieces of archeotech in their midst as powerful warp-bombs clouded by illusion.
Captain Greylock forgot the vox-bead in his ear was active as he howled to his men, “Everyone, haul ass!”
Sister Ulma frowned at the profanity, but Brother-Sergeant Gennady bellowed, “You heard the mortal! Move!” The Deathwatch adopted a steady withdrawal, keeping pace with the slower Catachans and Sororitas. The Throne Hammers pushed ahead without regard to their allies, but the Space Wolves covered the flanks of the Imperial retreat. Behind them, the hum of the warp-bombs changed pitch to an angry whine. The Imperials moved as fast as they could, but the Deathwatch and the Space Wolves did not abandon their human allies. The Legion of the Damned vanished, as if they'd never been there.
The Throne Hammers were the first to reach the extraction point, and Brother-Sergeant Decimus gave silent thanks to the beautiful sight in front of him – a squadron of unfamiliar Imperial void-craft, with the markings of the Deathwatch – and open bays for troop extraction.
“Kill-team Reaper is aboard the Blackstar, along with the Throne Angels, Space Wolves, Sororitas, and Catachans,” Captain Caul reported to Lucian. “No sign of the Blood Angels, my lord, but we’re running out of time.”
Lucian didn’t hesitate. “Get them out of there.” Captain Caul nodded as her vox-operator relayed the order. Within seconds, the wing of Corvus Blackstars flew free of The Desolation of Hope and made all speed towards the Thunder’s Word. Behind them, The Desolation of Hope began to glow unnatural colors as the warp-bombs detonated, and Lucian gave a silent prayer that the Blood Angels had found another way off the doomed hulk.
The Blackstars powered into the holds of the Thunder’s Word a minute later, as warpfire crawled all over the outer hull of The Desolation of Hope. Thunder’s Word was already pointing away from the hulk, and as soon as the bay doors rumbled shut, the Deathwatch cruiser was underway. She bled heat into the void as her engines strained to put as much distance between her and the hulk. Behind her, The Desolation of Hope imploded, and a nimbus of warp-spawned unreality surged out.
Lucian eyed the rapidly approaching wave-front and snapped, “Reroute all power to the Gellar fields! All hands, prepare for emergency warp-translation!” Warning tocsins blared throughout the ship as the Thunder’s Word shifted from flight to translation. The wave-front hit a minute later, and the ship shuddered as she was violently wrenched into the warp. Momentum kept her going despite the lack of natural laws in the Sea of Souls. “Report,” Lucian called out calmly, having once again mag-locked his boots to the deck. All around him, the human officers and ratings got to their feet.
Captain Caul took a second to adjust her uniform and gather the information required. She then turned to him and replied, “Gellar field stable, no breaches occurred. Minor damage to power transfer conduits, but nothing critical. Vessel at ninety-six per cent combat capability. The Navigator reports a stable warp-eddy ahead that will allow us a chance to translate back.” Lucian nodded, and a few minutes later Thunder’s Word ripped back into realspace.
The seconds after warp translation were when a ship was at her most vulnerable. It took precious seconds to reroute power from the Gellar fields to void shields, and to ready a ship’s weaponry. Sensors turned off for warp travel needed to be restarted, and threat indicators re-primed. Those seconds ticked by on the bridge of the Thunder’s Word, until the reports started coming in from the officers – shields went up, weapons went hot, and sensors came back online. Vox chatter rang out as Imperial signals were received.
Suddenly, there was a ripple of hesitation, of dismay. Brother-Captain Lucian shot Captain Caul a glance, but she was already striding over to the vox operator. She bent down and conferred with him for several seconds before straightening and retuning to Lucian’s side. “My lord, we have emerged in the realm of Ultramar, on the outskirts of the Macragge system. In-system interceptors are on their way, but our credentials have been verified.” She lowered her voice and added, “However, we’ve suffered temporal displacement. Time-checks indicate we’ve remerged thirty years after we entered the warp.”
Lucian nodded slowly as he processed the complications. The Astartes in the Deathwatch would return to service, and would arrange for the Vlka Fenryka and the Throne Hammers to be transported back to their respective Chapters. The Catachans and the Sororitas were a different story. “You have the bridge,” he said softly. “Inform the crew. I’ll head down to Captain Greylock and Sister-Superior Ulma and inform them personally. Their forces stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us the entire time, and they deserve a say in their fate, be it transport home or service in either Ultramar or the Deathwatch.” Captain Caul raised an eyebrow, but did not contradict the Ultramarine. She simply nodded, and Lucian left the bridge without further word.
Archmagos Tarkani burbled in self-congratulatory pleasure. Although the Throne Hammers made off with the physical generator, it was almost useless without the data his Killcade located, decrypted, and transmitted through the noosphere. Although the ancient encryptions fried the minds of the entire Killcade, Tarkanis considered it a worthwhile sacrifice as the contents of the ancient ship’s logis-engines now rested in a secure data-vault, ready to be transported back to Agripinaa for examination.
The archmagos received the report of the destruction of The Desolation of Hope with disinterest. Let the Throne Hammers keep their relic. Let the alliance between the Mechanicum and the bastard sons of Medusa stand. Let the Deathwatch protest and the Space Wolves gnash their fangs. In the end, the Imperium needed the Cult Mechanicus, and the will of the Omnissiah was all that mattered.
The Quest for Knowledge eclipsed all – and it would never be stopped.
Lord Zhirayr smiled as he examined his new surroundings. The excessive heat blooms from the transfer sinks would hide his presence, and his Astartes had fanned out and secured the immediate area. It seemed the Changer of Ways still showed him favor; Lord Zhirayr and his followers had teleported into a deserted part of the ship. It would be simplicity itself to establish a hidden stronghold down here, and then spread their blasphemous creed to the ship’s ratings and introduce scrap code into their servitors.
The Mechanicus ship powered through the warp towards Agrpinaa, unaware that Chaos already lurked in the ship’s guts.
Everyone, thank you very much for participating in our inaugural Warhammer 40,000 Kill Teams league! I apologize for the delay posting this wrap-up, but I hit a bit of writer's block.
I'd like to take a second and thank Keith Pratt and Steve Bour especially, as they were very helpful with feedback and ideas. I have some ideas for the next league, which will likely be in July or August! As always, any and all feedback is welcome.
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