Sparks From the Edge (40K/BT)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Academia Nut, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. Special thanks to Jon Berry for his assistance and no doubt continued assistance, if only to keep me focused.



    Chapter One

    "Brace for transition back to realspace," Fourth Company Captain Petronius Maximus of the Survivors Chapter said quietly to the significantly shorter man standing to his left.

    "I gathered that was what the alarms were for," Inquisitor Lucien Kennard muttered in mild annoyance at being told something he felt was obvious, even as he discreetly placed his hands upon the rail in front of him, a move that proved well planned a moment later when the ship lurched abruptly in a direction that was normally at right angles to reality. Lucien remarked rather dryly, "I had heard that Adeptus Astartes craft were known for the roughness of their transitions, but that was rather much."

    "The Navigator is reporting in now that the barrier between the Warp and realspace is distinctly 'choppy', Inquisitor Kennard," Shipmaster Gaius Tiberius, commander of the battle barge Dirge of Heresy, reported with equal dryness to the Inquisitor's remark.

    "Choppy? I had thought that at last report the Empyrean was distinctly smooth," Lucien pointed out with a tinge of irritation.

    "Guy?" Captain Maximus asked, using the diminutive from their chapter's unique flavour of Low Gothic to express his worry without being obvious to the outsider in their midst.

    "I'm translating a bit from psyker-speak Petr, but in essence the Warp has been calm," Shipmaster Tiberius said with something of a shrug of his enormous shoulders.

    Inquisitor Kennard's face darkened and he said, "That is indeed troublesome. Keep me appraised of any further changes in psychic activity or Warp phenomenon."

    Taking that moment to walk onto the bridge, Codicier Pyrrhus stated, "Our astropathic choir has already begun to intercept transmissions from Oologon IV. Translation should be ready shortly, but I do have the proper ciphers to tell you the salient points, if you so desire."

    The Inquisitor Kennard looked askance at the powerful psyker for a moment before he accused, "You did that on purpose."

    "Perhaps," the codicier admitted with an inscrutable look on his face.

    "Tell me what you know now so I can better sort out the primary messages later. We should be a good eight hours out in any case," Inquisitor Kennard said, somewhat irritated.

    "Approximately forty transports under the control of traitors and heretics have arrived in orbit about the planet, with the majority of them parked in high orbit above Hive Iolon. An estimated dozen regiments of Traitor Guard have made landings within the city and have smashed local PDF forces, but have made no attempt to engage forces outside the city. Communication from within the hive is sporadic at best, but enemy forces seem to be engaged in slaughter of the local population," Pyrrhus reported dutifully, his eyes and psychic hood glowing cerulean as he processed the psychic messages.

    The command staff on the bridge all looked at each other in wary confusion, each aware in their own ways of the dangers of the various tricks that Chaos could be up to when the lunatics under its sway started acting irrationally. Inquisitor Kennard broke the silence when he asked, "What of the cruiser that took out the local system defence forces that first drew our attention."

    Looking contemplative for a second as he sorted through the data, Pyrrhus replied, "The enemy ship, identified via broadcast as the Harvester of Endings, secured orbital supremacy and annihilated groundside aerospace bases capable of running any sort of interdiction over Iolon before it left."

    "Sensors confirm a cooling ion trail leading away from the planet indicative of a craft on full military burn no more than three days ago," Shipmaster Tiberius confirmed.

    "Would it be remiss of me to suggest that the segments of the enemy force that could be considered 'important' do not want to be anywhere near this system?" Captain Maximus suggested darkly.

    "That or a rather convoluted trap. Either way..." The Inquisitor said, falling away into a musing tone. Finally he said, "Forward the messages to my staff, I shall consult with them during our transit."

    "We will keep you appraised of any changing conditions or our own insights as we examine the situation," Captain Maximus replied as one of the chapter serfs went through the process of having a data copy of the astropathic messages routed to the Inquisitor's retinue in their quarters elsewhere on the battle barge. Left unsaid but rather obvious was the request for equivalent cooperation.

    "Thank you," Inquisitor Kennard said with a curt nod before he stalked off the bridge to return to his own analysts.

    Captain Maximus watched the Inquisitor leave before he turned to Pyrrhus and asked, "Was there anything in there meant only for the ears of the Chapter, Rhus?"

    "No, but there are certain records within the Library that may be of use in this situation, Petr," Pyrrhus noted.

    Glancing at the four hour old images of Oologon, Tiberius groused, "I thought we were done with that cursed place two centuries ago."

    "I forgot that you were old enough to have lived through the Exodus, Guy," Maximus noted apologetically.

    "I was not yet even an Initiate at the time so I barely remember it, but I know that the day my family left the rubble of Iolon behind was the happiest day of my short life. Compared to that wretched ruin of a hive, the wilds of Yundr were paradise," Tiberius mused in reminiscence of times that were quite literally from a previous life.

    "The attention of Chaos in the Hive where our Chapter was born and fought for seven centuries is indeed a troublesome development. I have already tasked my Lexicanum to begin collecting what information we have on the area, both for tactical assessment and to see if we can determine what the enemy could possibly hope to obtain through their actions," Pyrrhus noted gravely.

    "I will gather the sergeants and we can discuss the issue. Shall we meet in the council chambers in half an hour?" Maximus inquired.

    "That should be sufficient time to access what information we have stored with us," Pyrrhus stated before he bowed slightly to Tiberius and Maximus in turn before he too left the bridge.

    Placing his right arm on Tiberius' left pauldron, Maximus said to him, "Keep us safe in transit, Guy."

    Nodding, the Shipmaster said, "Aye. I'm wary of that bastard cruiser sneaking up on us. You handle getting ready for the ground campaign, and I will make sure you get there."

    Half an hour later and Captain Maximus was seated at his customary position at the round table that served as the centrepiece for the council room. To his left sat Pyrrhus, to his right was Chaplain Fedor Meridius, and forming a quarter ring around the rest of the circle were the ten sergeants attached to Maximus' company. The Dirge of Heresy could carry up to three companies at once and the table reflected that, hence the only partial filling, along with both the places for the Shipmaster and Master of the Enginarium remaining empty due to their activity elsewhere. At the moment, all eyes were directed upward at the holographic schematic of Hive Iolon.

    "Looks like a shithole," Veteran Sergeant Rudolfus Terminus commented in his own particular idiom.

    "That's because our ancestors spent seven centuries killing orks within it, Rud. Why the Administratum thought it worthwhile to repopulate the place is lost to me. In any case we should receive updated map data and all current tactical and strategic data. In the mean time we shall see if we can figure out why the enemy has chosen to attack this one hive to the exclusion of all others," Maximus explained.

    "The wholesale slaughter of the civilian population stinks of foul sorcery," Chaplain Meridius commented in disgust.

    "I agree, particularly given the nature of our Chapter's centuries of isolation, but we and the Inquisition scoured Oologon during the Exodus for any clues as to what happened. We are unlikely to see anything that has been missed within two centuries, but perhaps now that we can know that the forces of Chaos have a focus upon it something new may become clear. We have four centuries of coherent battle reports to go through, so keep your eyes open and your wits sharp," Pyrrhus noted as serfs began to hand out data slates to the various sergeants.

    After about half an hour of quiet discussion among the sergeants the youngest of the ten, the recently promoted Sergeant Guriy Nihilus said loud enough for everyone to hear, "You know, this city looks like some of the things I normally take a flamer to."

    "If you are referring to certain patterns that appear in the networks of roads and service ducting, that is a known phenomenon in cities, particularly in radial hives. The human eye sees patterns. The Administratum and Inquisition check for the presence of blasphemous ones just to be sure though," Pyrrhus explained.

    "Oh. Kind of disconcerting all the same," Nihilus noted.

    "It is brother, it is, but... huh... that's peculiar," Pyrrhus said, suddenly coming up short.

    Snowy white eyebrows twitching, Chaplain Meridius turned to Pyrrhus and said, "Rhus, when a Librarian says that something is 'peculiar' I reach for my crozius."

    "Well... there is sort of a pattern with the various cathedrals and main transit lines, but those happen naturally because of the need for associated transit hubs and connecting thoroughfares and the like, but it is not... well..." Pyrrhus noted while looking at the various maps with a sceptical eye.

    "What do you see brother?" Maximus asked.

    "Well, if you squint, you can almost see what might be a hexagrammic ward in the design," Pyrrhus admitted.

    "If after seven centuries of fighting that devastated the hive you think you can see some form of occult symbol in the structure of the city then we need those updated maps right away," Maximus declared, looking at the nearest serf, who just shook his head in a negative gesture. Frowning, he said, "Very well. Now that we have a hint I want everyone but Rhus to focus on examining any reports of cult activity. Our primary enemies during our occupation of Iolon were orks, but reports indicate intermittent cult activity as well. It was assumed that it was just the weak succumbing to stress from the Warp storms, but perhaps not. Look for patterns."

    "We should probably inform the Inquisitor," Pyrrhus pointed out.

    "We probably should," Maximus agreed with a sigh before he turned to one of the serfs, who nodded and quickly began typing on a data slate to compose the proper message. Satisfied that the task would be dealt with, Maximus returned to his own examination of the old battle reports. These were all familiar to him, having been part of the information hypnotically implanted in his mind during his indoctrination into the ways of the Survivors over a century and a half ago. He had gone over them countless times since, but usually seeking lessons from the past in terms of tactical or strategic insight. Now he looked at them with new eyes, seeking more esoteric patterns.

    All Space Marines had extraordinary minds as part of the gifts granted to them by the Emperor and the Primarchs through their gene seed, but sadly far too many battle-brothers chose not to exercise that strength and let the muscles of their minds atrophy. By his own estimation, Maximus ranked the Survivors as being better than most at using their brains, although certainly not the best. As a Captain he was by definition a cut above the rest of his brothers in terms of intelligence and battlefield acumen. Still, as he quickly scanned back and forth through the centuries of reports, he found his intelligence lacking. Roughly five hundred years of back and forth with orks in the ruins of a city that had once housed two billion people while a hungry black void hovered overhead was quite a daunting task to try to understand all at once, let alone to pluck the madness of heretics from the general disorder of such a war.

    Then he saw it. In retrospect it was obvious. Looking up at all of his from the data slates, he said, "Brothers, I am amazed no one has noticed this before. Plot all cult activity by location and time and account for the presence of the greenskins and our own enclaves. Does anyone else notice what I am seeing?" As he spoke, Maximus manipulated the holo-lith and imposed the sites where cult activity had been found while also overlaying ork lines and their own.

    There was an awkward silence before Chaplain Meridius commented dryly, "That's a rather conspicuously large dead zone of cult activity."

    Up on the holographic display there was a large oval that showed no signs of any cult activity at all during the five hundred years of activity within the hive, despite being well away from the strongholds the Survivors had built into the city. While looking at the hole, Senior Sergeant Artminus Marius hummed for a moment and said, "The dead zone gets even bigger when you compare the greenskin lines to the cult activity on the borders. We only ever cleared out cults within a kilometre of that area after pushing the xenos out of the area."

    "So there was clearly something in that area that they wanted so badly they couldn't even risk their presence there tipping us off to its existence. The question is, what?" Maximus mused aloud.

    "The obvious answer is the crashed hive spire that more or less makes up the boundaries of the dead zone, but from an occult perspective it is completely out of place," Pyrrhus noted.

    "Yes, but considering the precision cuts to the primary supports on one side we have long suspected that our ancestors dropped the spire to one side for some reason very early on in the occupation of Iolon, possibly to crush a very large concentration of orks in the collapse. What if the cult objective was what the spire landed on?" Sergeant Rudolfus speculated.

    "That's possible... but..." Pyrrhus began to say speculatively while carefully examining the maps and reports before him. He then muttered, "How did we miss this?"

    "Because it is not your job to look for these sorts of things," Inquisitor Kennard announced as he marched into the room. There was a slightly smug look on his face and the faintest flicker of warp fire in the eyes of the psyker acolyte at his side. The not amused look on Pyrrhus' face said everything that could not be said aloud between them, and the rest of the Marines in attendance wisely chose not to comment. After allowing for dramatic timing of his arrival to sink in and letting his eyes quickly dart over the holo-lith, Kennard added on, "The sort of high level analysis of cult activity that should have caught this is the domain of the Inquisition, which implies corruption at work. In fact, I would not be surprised if your ancestors noted this strange dead zone and reported it after your exile was over."

    There was a slight pause as those assembled considered the implication that Inquisitor Kennard had just made, and then the eyes of Maximus' brothers fell on him as the senior Marine to comment. Maximus licked his lips for a moment as he carefully considered his words before he replied, "While the Survivors are uncertain of our lineage, there is some evidence to suggest that our progenitors were on Oologon IV in the first place due to Inquisitorial request."

    "I am aware of this fact. I have already sent an astropathic message towards the Inquisitorial Conclave indicating that a thorough investigation into the matter is required. There is something rotten within that requires cleansing fire to purge. I can only hope it arrives," Kennard noted with the sort of dispassion that indicated that he would be strangling people if only he had their throats available.

    Maximus looked at Pyrrhus, who said, "The Warp grows increasingly disquiet. It is difficult to describe to a non-psyker, but the best analogy I can describe is of the interface layer between a liquid and a gas. It is currently vibrating in such a way that there is no mixing between the two fluids, but the energy is there and slowly increasing such that if trends continue..." Pyrrhus let the morbid analogy fade away with a troubled shrug that said enough to his brothers.

    "Could the slaughter of the civilians be causing it?" Meridius asked.

    "Yes and no. Mass death disturbs the Warp with the echoes of their souls violently cut away from the bodies, but the scale of the disturbance is out of proportion to the scale of reported deaths. This leads increasing credence to the possibility of an arcane structure to the city, but even then such slaughter could only serve to prime the array, not activate it," Pyrrhus explained.

    The pale skinned, hunched over and heavily augmented creature that Kennard had brought with him along with his psyker suddenly spoke up with a raspy, excited voice and said, "It is the power conduits! That must be it!"

    "Archimentes?" Kennard asked of his servant.

    "The main transit lines are the obvious part, but there is only bits and pieces so unless there is a major cult ritual going on you would never think to look, but most major roads have the biggest power conduits in the hive running parallel to the side or underneath them. You do not however have to run such conduits along the same path as roads and you can hide them in the infrastructure of the hive. If you look here and here there are major industrial sectors in sub-optimal locations that could easily have major power conduits transecting them and completing missing pieces of occult circuitry. The area the cults were protecting by avoiding falls into a third such position," the savant explained, gesturing to a pair of production blocks that seemed no different than any of the other blocks.

    The battle-brothers remained silent and still at the proclamation, while Pyrrhus, Kennard and the other psyker all looked thoughtful for a moment before Pyrrhus declared, "Okay, it is definitely an occult array of some sort, but there is too much missing information to be able to determine its exact function."

    "Immaterial, we..." Kennard began, before Maximus cut him off and said, "...bombard Iolon from orbit until not even the outskirts remain intact and then survey the remaining hives while waiting for back up."

    Kennard paused in annoyance before he said, "Acceptable. I had heard your chapter has a reputation for softness, but it seems I was mistaken."

    The Space Marines all glared at the Inquisitor in a way that suggested that his Inquisitorial Rosette might find itself little more than a shiny bauble amidst a pile of meat if he said something like that again before Maximus replied coldly, "Our enemies often mistaken long term pragmatism for softness, to their brief but intense discomfort later."

    Not appearing in any way intimidated in a manner that suggested he had received the message loud and clear, Kennard said in turn, "Well, I suppose the infrequency of such attitudes amongst the lesser servants of the Emperor could generate such rumours."

    Since a roundabout apology without actually apologizing for anything was probably the best that could be extracted from an Inquisitor, Maximus let the initial comment slide and instead said, "In any case, we have no authority to carry Cyclonic Torpedoes or any other Exterminatus grade weaponry, so a surgical excising of the confirmed infection shall have to suffice until further Inquisitorial oversight arrives."

    "This is true," Kennard admitted. He looked like he was about to say something else when all froze in horror as wan witch light began to flicker across the eyes of the two psykers present, with the crystals upon Pyrrhus' skull that made up his psychic hood soon glowing ominously. All else in attendance began to slowly edge out of their seats, hands resting upon the hilts and handles of various weapons as they waited to see if intervention would be necessary. Finally though the episode seemed to pass for both psykers, to which the Inquisitor could only exclaim, "By the Holy Light of the Emperor, I demand to know what that was about!"

    "Something terrible has just happened master," the psyker whispered hoarsely to the Inquisitor at a level he probably mistakenly thought the Space Marines would not be able to make out.

    Pyrrhus' eyes flashed once more before he announced, "We have lost our Astropathic choir; five burnouts and two emergency executions. Our Navigators are currently stable, but one had to be heavily sedated. The Lexicanums are fine."

    "What happened, Rhus?" Maximus asked worriedly.

    "I... I cannot say precisely. If the boundary between the Warp and realspace was agitated before, it is now like a large rock has been dropped from a great height. I need to consult some things before I can make an accurate assessment of the true extent of what has happened," Pyrrhus stated. He paused for a moment before he said, "At this point I do not think anyone will ever know the story of what happened here unless we tell it to them face to face."

    Both Meridius and Kennard looked like they wanted to say something about defeatism before the pained looks on the faces of the psykers informed them that Pyrrhus was being optimistic. Maximus instead said, "Go, see to what you need to see. I think we are done here. Everyone, return to your squads and order a full combat lockdown. We will not be dropping into battle any time soon and I want us prepared for rough weather if need be. I would suggest you have your own people secure themselves as well, Inquisitor."

    "Archimentes, Procyon, pass the advice along to the rest of the team. I will accompany the Captain back to the bridge as I wish to be among the first to see what the auspex has to say," Kennard ordered of his acolytes, who nodded in silent confirmation.

    Activating his personal vox as he got up, Maximus said, "Guy, I'm not sure what you know so far, but I recommend you prepare the ship for potential moral threats."

    "Acknowledged Petr. I suspect Rhus has more information, but the death of the Astropaths has already moved me up to full alert on that front. I've already distributed orders to the section heads, but I held off on a general announcement in case you were in the middle of something," Tiberius remarked.

    "The psychic disruption more or less ended the conversation we were having. On that note however, we need to prepare for an orbital bombardment," Maximus stated.

    "Precise or prejudiced?" Tiberius inquired.

    "Prejudiced. Extremely prejudiced. We will need a complete scouring of Iolon at the minimum," Maximus noted.

    "I will inform the masters of the guns of the coming need so that they can prepare," Tiberius responded crisply.

    Arriving at the bridge, Maximus found that there was little to do but wait for the requisite hour for light from whatever the event was to reach them, even as the psychic augers showed Warp energy readings that were reaching terrifying levels. What they saw in the EM spectrum would have made lesser men than Space Marines and Inquisitors blanche, and a few of the serfs on the bridge had to be taken away for morale reasons. What they saw was the squadron of forty enemy ships, most of them appearing like defiled pilgrim ships, all attempt to activate their Warp drives in close formation within low orbit of Oologon IV. The results were spectacularly predictable, but the aftermath was not.

    Making the sign of the Aquila in warding, Inquisitor Kennard whispered, "Sacred Light of the Emperor protect us! I had thought I had seen the depths of such madness, but this is beyond anything in our records!"

    "May the Emperor protect indeed. This certainly explains the reactions of our psykers and the readings from the auspex," Maximus noted grimly as he stared at the bleeding hole of unlight that was connected by strands of viridescent indigo to the world below.

    "Such insanity! But... but yes, I can see what the design could do now. It must be some sort of... warp amplifier. It is siphoning off the energy from that Warp tear, but instead of dissipating it, it must be feeding it back into the rift. God Emperor help me, the depths of depraved corruption to have pulled this off..." Kennard stated, nearly muttering to himself towards the end.

    "And the Survivors sat on it for seven centuries and noticed nothing," Maximus replied grimly.

    "It's not your job to root out this sort of base treachery, it is supposed to be the job of the Inquisition. God Emperor guide my last message safely through the Warp to faithful ears so that the guilty might be punished for this atrocity," Kennard stated numbly.

    Seeing something of a horrified yet enthralled look growing over him, Maximus cut the feed and said, "All signals are to be considered a moral threat at this point."

    Shaking off whatever fugue was settling over him, Kennard stated, "Thank you Captain, I should have been of stronger will than to stare like that."

    "We will all require proper debrief and interrogation for corruption after this, I suspect," Maximus pointed out before he turned to Tiberius and asked, "What are our options Guy?"

    Sweeping over a few safe, clinical numbers Tiberius mused on it for a second before he stated, "I suspect the whole city is going to be enveloped in energy from that rift, which I am betting my soul will be like a gigantic Void shield in terms of protection, only I doubt even torpedoes would be able to get through. Cultists are crazy, but they at least know our obvious moves to try to counter them."

    "Agreed, wholeheartedly," Kennard said with a quick nod, the weakness gone from his eyes and voice to be replaced with proper Imperial steel.

    "We therefore need an unobvious move to have a hope against them. Could we ram the city?" Maximus asked.

    "No, we would be torn apart by the rift before we could get there, even if we don't just bounce off the shielding effect," Tiberius replied with a shake of his head.

    "The shield did not seem to extend very far outside the city. Could you launch torpedoes at an oblique angle and sneak them in underneath?" Kennard suggested.

    "They're not that agile, especially not in a gravity well with atmosphere," Tiberius stated with another shake.

    Maximus and Kennard both stared quietly at the clinically dispassionate holo of the doomed world of Oologon IV for a long time, watching the range counter slowly tick down as the Dirge of Heresy approached at a speed that was only slow on the scale of stars. After what seemed an interminable time of quiet but could have been no more than a handful of minutes, Maximus asked, "Your savant, what areas of scholastic lore has he studied?"

    "I can think of no Warp lore that could serve us here," Kennard replied honestly.

    "Not lore of the occult, but rather lore of the physical world," Maximus clarified without looking at Kennard.

    "Oh, he has studied just about everything in that regard, or at least only the up to the semi-banned treatises on the physical sciences," Kennard answered with a shrug.

    "I suspected as much. Do you think I could consult with him over a geological problem?" Maximus asked.

    Kennard turned to look at Maximus, and as their eyes met the Inquisitor's went wide with comprehension. Turning back to the holographic representation of the world, Kennard noted, "Your chapter is far more unconventional than the rumours suggest."

    For the next two hours the Dirge of Heresy made its final approach, watching as the Warp rift grew in size, casting its hideous, sickly light across the damned star system. All across the battle barge shutters remained tightly shut as if in Warp transit, and the mortal passengers found anti-psychotic drugs being distributed to all. The vox casters were filled with the hymns of Meridius and particularly faithful serfs, bolstering the spirits of those aboard the ship.

    Slowing down to a final, geostationary orbit on the far side of Oolong IV from Iolon, the great warship rotated on its longitudinal axis so that its starboard side faced the world below. With the Warp rift eclipsed by the bulk of the planet, the shutters opened for the macrocannons along the side facing the walking dead world below. On the dorsal surface the great lance battery turret rotated into position as final firing solutions were plotted out. Tech adepts and integrated servitors fed in the last of the necessary data to the mighty weapons, chanting out in Binary the praises to the world endingly powerful machine spirits that they might vent their apocalyptic wrath true and clean.

    Staring at still closed adamantium and ceramite shutters, Shipmaster Gaius Tiberius uttered the only word he need to.

    "Fire."

    The entire six kilometre long warship hummed as the hab block sized capacitors for the lance battery all emptied in a few seconds, projecting long columns of star hot light down into the coastal mountain range the savants aboard the warship had selected as their targets. The beams struck true and stabbed straight into the magma chamber of the dormant volcano chosen as the first target. Pressure that had been building for centuries suddenly discovered that there was a convenient exit cut and the mountain exploded with the combined force of the lance strike and its own eruption. A second later and the first of the macrocannon shells began to rain down into the other geologically active features.

    The guns kept firing, as fast as they could reload and recharge, bombarding the mountain range that had begun to grow tens of millions of years prior when two tectonic plates began to grind against each other. Tensions and pressures on a planetary scale suddenly found the unyielding rock that had held them in check had been abruptly and catastrophically removed. The skies soon darkened as explosions to end the world rapidly ripped back and forth across this seam of the world.

    Ten minutes into the bombardment, the Dirge of Heresy began to rotate, bringing its bow about to point down into the burning scar the warship had gouged into the planet below, its guns firing in sequence just as they lost line of sight with a singular target. Just as the last of the macrocannons fired the six now open torpedo tubes launched their building sized payloads. It took but a second for them to leave their tubes and rush down to the planet below, during which time the lance battery fired just above them.

    The mighty warship had dug a hole through the crust of the world to the mantle beneath, and the half dozen plasma torpedoes made it through the rapidly collapsing wound to strike and bury into the dense, not quite solid and not quite liquid rock of the interior before they detonated into newborn suns. On the scale of worlds, the bombardment was not enough to do more than scratch the ball of rock and metal, but on the scale of continents the bombardment was more than enough. Multiple tectonic plates cracked and shifted. Mountains fell and oceans rose. If Oologon IV had a future then the devastation would have been a scar that would have been visible in the geological record for billions of years.

    But Oologon IV did not have a future. In the charnel house of Iolon where daemons capered and danced over the corpses of Imperial citizens and the cultists that had summoned them, their first warning that this world and the stars for a hundred light years around would not be theirs was the way the ground began to shake and tremble. Nameless, formless blasphemies unused to the structures of realspace exulted in this novel new form, but their more complex brethren had enough understand to know that the ground should not shake.

    Iolon was built on geologically stable ground as proof against the shifts of nature in the short millennia since its initial planning, but that was not enough in the face of the quakes that raced across the planet. The ground shifted and trembled and pulled on the great array that had been constructed. The design was robust against damage, but not on the scale inflicted as conduits snapped under the tension and hive spires toppled upon critical lines. The daemonic architects who had played with dozens of generations of mortals to achieve this monument to their brilliance screamed in horror as their design was perverted and altered by pure random chance.

    One of the patron gods of the grand project cackled with perverse glee as its minions were devoured by pure, unadulterated chaos that had been set in motion by their own hands, while the other gods turned away from the failures before them. The grand array was no longer functioning properly. It was now drawing the rift into itself rather than the energies spilled forth by the rift. The daemons wailing amongst the wreckage of their design knew that when contact was met between the two, their immortal existences would end permanently.

    By the time a serf had cried out, "It's working!" two hours had passed since the launch of the torpedoes, the Dirge of Heresy and her masters needing to wait to see if they would need to repeat their bombardment to finish the job. Tiberius had not even finished giving the order before the main engines started firing to take the mighty warship as far from the dying world as they could as quickly as possible. The ship fired its engines at rates that would quickly burn them out if kept up, but the red robed masters of the reactors saw no need to conserve them if a lack of a single erg would lead to their annihilation.

    It wasn't enough.

    The rift touched the array four hundred and seventy-six seconds after the battle barge first fired its engines. For a briefly infinite time, everything within about a light year of the planet stopped. Then, a moment later, everything within that sphere of space collapsed inward, driven to superluminal velocities by an enormous buckling of the Warp. The matter of the star and all the planets and moons and comets and asteroids and dust abruptly found themselves all compressed into a single point too small for the universe to acknowledge as having volume, and promptly collapsed into a singularity at the centre of the Warp rift, which then promptly fell into the Warp rift, sealing the fissure in reality by pulling it closed.

    Diverting all possible power to the Gellar Field and the engines, the Dirge of Heresy burned like a candle just above the ultimate blackness while surrounded by the hungry darkness of the Warp. Only able to survive the buckling of space-time by the fact that their drives did something similar, they avoided being pulled into the singularity, but not from being snared by its gravity. Downward they travelled, pulled along by physical forces that had no place in the Immaterial Realm and by the vortex currents generated by the impossible motion of the black hole through the Empyrean as it sank towards the Stygian depths.

    Psykers skimmed power from the waves and ripples at the surface of the great sea of power that was the Warp. Mighty warships swam through the currents just beneath. Daemons and more horrid things prowled in the lightless depths below that, hunting for the flickering light of mortal souls upon the surface or in the bubbles about their ships to guide them to their next meal. The Dirge went deeper than that, into and beyond realms of pure thought and emotion. It was a stratum of the Warp that no mortal could go, where the weight of non-existence threatened to crush the tiny, insignificant craft. The Gellar Field was pressed in to the hull and even through in some places, causing normally near indestructible armour to flow and melt like ice exposed to a cutting torch, the bonds that held the material together rendered void by the unreal nature of these depths.

    The black hole, shielded for a long time by its own impossibility, finally began to lose its grip upon the battle barge, and the two began to wander away from each other. As much as the singularity had been the doom of the warship by dragging it into these depths, it had also been the salvation by keeping the worst of the Warp pressure away by dint of its wake. Tumbling out of control, the Gellar field began its final collapse inward.

    Isolated for too long from the normal laws of physics, the black hole surrendered to the Warp. The first physical law, by way of being one of the weakest, was the force of gravity. In the nanosecond between the failure of gravity and the rest of the physical forces giving up, they protested against the compressed state.

    In the months and years to come, the Imperium would take note of the loss of the Oolong Star System, a battle barge and company of Space Marines, and the disappearance of an Inquisitor. They would also take note of a rather sharp upward spike in the birth rate of psykers in the sector and an general roughening of Warp currents in the subsector where the star had once been, but the event was not noticeable to rouse the attention of the galactic bureaucracy, nor allow them to properly connect the dots. Entities more ancient than apes would also notice the peculiar event, but not have a proper explanation for what had happened, and in their own ways simply shrug and move on with their own agendas.

    The Dirge of Heresy on the other hand was considerably closer to the event that the rest of the galaxy would eventually perceive of as a minor burp in the Warp. Anywhere and anywhen else, either the blast or the Warp pressure would have obliterated them, but instead the shock formed a wave of reality that the ship was carried along on, the forces of the Warp and the explosion just barely cancelling each other out enough for the battle barge to be swept out of the abyss and towards the depths where it was meant to operate.

    Twisted and buckled by awesome forces that boggled the mind and its mighty armour pitted and eroded by the corrosive essence of the Warp, the once mighty battle barge was vomited forth back into realspace with such violence that the ship was nearly snapped in half. As it was, on the bridge when motion returned to sensibility and colour stopped having a flavour it was a hellish scramble of broken machinery and shattered bodies, all lit in the bloody crimson of the emergency lighting. Deck plates had crumpled and the artificial gravity was clear malfunctioning as down was not oriented perfectly normal to the deck but had a small but noticeable tilt to it.

    Having just barely remained secured to his seat, Maximus managed to recover quickly enough to be able to see Tiberius extracting himself from the partial collapse of the ceiling over his command throne. Undoing his restraints, Maximus moved over to the shipmaster and aided him in pushing a piece of debris off of him. Judging by the way Tiberius' armour had crumpled, if he had not been adorned for battle he would have surely have perished.

    "Thank you brother," Tiberius replied while he gingerly removed his right pauldron to free up the range of motion in that arm.

    "Any time brother. How can I further assist?" Maximus asked.

    Looking around the wreckage, Tiberius replied, "Assist the bridge crew, I need their technical expertise to get the Dirge up and running once more."

    In other Chapters, a Company Captain being asked to aid non-Space Marines might have been interpreted as an insult, but the culture of the Survivors placed the pragmatism of the situation above concerns of pride and honour. Service to the Emperor was the greatest pride and honour one could have, and if the Emperor was best served by medically aiding His servants so that they might do their job, then it was Maximus' great joy to do so until he could find a better use of his time. As such Maximus nodded to Tiberius and went to go examine the nearest pile of serfs.

    Ceramite gauntlets moved with surprising gentleness to extract the living from the dead and to give the dead some dignity in their repose. Only when he found the living so battered that even in his inexpert opinion that they had no hope for survival did he bring his full strength to bear, quietly delivering the Emperor's Mercy while whispering prayers for the quick and painless departure of their souls. The Adeptus Astartes were the Emperor's Angels of Death, and they could deliver that death both brutally and mercifully, as the case may be.

    Then, while working on sorting out a pile of wreckage, both machine and man, Maximus found Inquisitor Kennard, still strapped into his seat. While it was obvious that the Inquisitor was badly injured, it was also obvious from the rise and fall of his chest that he had survived. Using his strength to shift the entire seat, Maximus brought the Inquisitor out into the open and called out to the few mobile serfs, "I need a stretcher team for a VIP."

    To their credit the serfs only hesitated for a moment in deciding what to do, for as much as it had to rankle for an outsider to be given preferential treatment while their comrades lay dying in need of the limited amount of transport to the nearest Apothecary, it was still an order from a Captain of the Chapter and the patient was an Inquisitor. Maximus examined the faces of the trudged forward to take the Inquisitor, identifying them as Ensigns Mykyta and Klavdiya. He would talk to them later about how he understood their hesitation and appreciated their obedience in spite of that. It would not do to let morale be depleted by doubts.

    "Brother, I require your assistance," Tiberius announced as the serfs took Kennard off to the Apothecary for treatment.

    "What is it, Guy?" Maximus asked.

    "I need something confirmed, Petr. I can tell from my instruments - Emperor, from my handheld auspex - that we have exited the Warp, but nothing else is working properly and I can't even open the shutters. I need someone to go down to the bridge airlock and more or less look outside. I would normally ask a serf to do it, but I am short of serfs, let alone void capable serfs," Tiberius explained.

    Maximus nodded curtly and then asked, "What do you need me to look for?"

    "Look for the extent of the exterior damage and any nearby masses that we should be worried about, more or less. You should also set your armour's auto-senses to record so that we can analyze star patterns later if we can't get our sensors back online properly due to damage," Tiberius explained.

    Nodding, Maximus went to work without another word, quickly descending into the service corridors surrounding the bridge until he arrived at an airlock normally used by serfs for maintenance of the exterior of the bridge but that was more than large enough to permit egress by powered armour. After double checking that his armour retained a full atmospheric seal, Maximus activated his vox and said, "I am sealing the airlock now. The interior lock is showing a positive seal, but please make sure to be prepared to fire emergency bulkhead seals in the event of unexpected decompression."

    "Confirmed. Emperor be with you," Tiberius stated on the other end of the vox.

    Making the proper observations to the machine spirit in charge of the air lock, Maximus went through the decompression procedure only for the system to inform him that there it was suffering a General Error 27 and could not complete the procedure. Tapping the vox once more, Maximus relayed the problem on to Tiberius. After a moment, Tiberius said, "Can you open the outer door without completing the depressurization step?"

    Glancing at the controls, Maximus stated, "The airlock is currently on an isolated air supply and the manual controls are intact."

    "Please make the attempt, Petr," Tiberius requested.

    "Very well. Stand by and take note of any anomalies while I open the lock," Maximus stated as he began flipping breakers to cancel out the magnetic clamps and enable the manual override. Once the machine spirit had been properly instructed to stand aside despite its protests, Maximus set himself in front of the outer door to the airlock and engaged the magnetic clamps in his boots, sealing himself to the deck so that he could get extra leverage and avoid any possibility of being knocked out into the void of space by explosive decompression. Grabbing the handles for the door, Maximus then began to turn.

    Even with a Space Marine's great strength augmented by power armour and the mechanism in manual mode, the differential in air pressure should have required some effort, and Maximus expected the possibility of requiring even more due to damage. Instead there was a small popping noise almost immediately and then the door slid inward and to the side with practically no effort, much to Maximus' bafflement. What he found on the other side of the door was equally baffling, as rather than hard vacuum and stars there was a solid looking matte black barrier.

    "Brother, I have encountered a potential Warp phenomenon. Standby," Maximus announced over the vox.

    Disengaging his magnetic clamps, Maximus took several steps back and drew the plasma pistol at his side, thumbing the activating rune as he took it out. Levelling the energy weapon upon the black barrier, Maximus fired a single shot and was rewarded with an actinic flare of light as the bolt of star hot plasma struck the material and flashed away some of it, leaving a glassy piece of matter behind in its wake and a puff of acrid looking smoke hanging in the air. Raising his pistol away, Maximus then reached down his belt and casually drew and threw the combat knife there with a single smooth motion.

    The metallic clatter of the knife striking the wall and then bouncing off confirmed that Maximus was dealing with some form of matter. Carefully moving forward, he kicked the knife to the side while he kept his pistol raised and closed the airlock door. Once it was sealed he activated his vox and said, "We appear to be encased in something. I need someone with a psy-spex to investigate for possible Warp contamination. Full environmental sealing required."

    "We've made contact with elements from elsewhere on the ship. I am sending down a pair of brothers with the equipment," Tiberius announced, a slightly worried tinge in his voice. Or at least worried for a Space Marine.

    Two hours later and Maximus and the surviving complement of marines minus the overworked Apothecaries were assembled within the primary chapel, along with the conscious elements of the Inquisitor's retinue and what serfs could be spared from keeping the ship from collapsing in on itself. The central element at the moment were the prone bodies of the three Marines who had perished and as many of the serfs as had been found and could be conveniently brought in for the initial service.

    "Ave Imperator," Meridius spoke in a solemn, booming voice that carried across the chapel.

    "Ave Imperator," the assembled congregation spoke back as one.

    "We live, because the Emperor has chosen us to live. We die because the Emperor has chosen us to die. Between those two times, we serve the Emperor. That is all there is, and all that needs be said for the dead. They lived and served honourably, and died in service. No greater thing could be asked for. For the living though, to have brothers and sisters cruelly torn away from us, if words are not said, faith might waver. So I say, of the dead, they shall be remembered. They are already known to the Emperor, but they shall be remembered by the living too. Each soul taken from us today, in our duty to the Emperor, shall be remembered. Their sacrifices shall not be forgotten. Their deaths, no matter how random and capricious they may seem, had meaning to the Emperor, and thus they have meaning to us. It is my great honour to have known many of them, to have ministered to their spirits, and it is my great disappointment to have not known far too many. Any true servant of the Emperor is a worthy in my eyes, even if some have more pressing need of my attention to distribute it as evenly as I might like. That they are gone is a loss that we all feel. I shall now read the names of those who have passed on into the Light of the Emperor, so that we might all know them. This list shall grow as more of our brothers and sisters are found in the wreckage, and as the grievously injured pass on from their wounds, but since we must thank the Emperor for His miraculous intervention in our survival, that we gather makes this also the time to speak the names of the dead," Meridius boomed out to the assembled crowds, who listened on with rapt attention.

    A clerical serf then handed Meridius a massive scroll, which he unrolled and began to read off for all in attendance, "Alenko, Ann. Azon, Glynkzo. Baalsyn, Gregoire. Baalsyn, Henkel. Baltine, Boris..."

    A silent buzz to the three most important officers in the room informed them of important new information, and with curt, apologetic nods to Meridius they left to return to the task of overseeing the ship. Meridius gave a small nod of his own acknowledging that their presence was required elsewhere without even breaking pace as he continued to read out in alphabetical order the names of the dead.

    Slipping out of the chapel, Maximus, Tiberius, and Senior Techmarine Timaeus Galen all found a quiet room attached to the main corridor leading to the chapel. Speaking in the mechanical tones so common to the followers of the Machine God, Galen said, "Senior Apothecary Aristides reports that Sergeant Kyrillos will survive his wounds and should regain consciousness soon. Since his squad did not remove the spar that impaled him but instead cut it free with his power sword, the loss of two lungs and a heart did not prove fatal."

    "Ave Imperator. I will make sure to quietly pass the blessed news along to Meridius when I return," Maximus stated.

    Looking over his data slate, Tiberius said, "I see that your adepts have made sufficient progress with our situation that it comes time to make a command decision."

    "Yes. Sustained melta cutting has breached the dense matter that appears to have been shoved aside by our Gellar field - Ave Imperator and Ave Omnissiah for such miracles - and has found sedimentary rock on the other side, consistent with the geology of a world possessing liquid water and an oxygen atmosphere. Sounding with seismic charges indicates that we are in a mountain range of some sort. A fresh shaft is being dug as we speak towards the closest open surface," Galen reported clinically.

    "The question thus becomes who is best suited to the task of scouting," Maximus noted.

    "Indeed. The Emperor has clearly ensured our survival where it should have been impossible many times over, which means He has a task for us on this world. The question thus becomes what task?" Tiberius added on.

    "I have a full complement of servo-skulls ready to scout as soon as we finish mining out the new shaft," Galen stated.

    "Good for the immediate area, but of limited use over a wider range. Tell me, how well did our Land Speeders weather the ordeal?" Maximus asked.

    "Land Speeder Typhon suffered damage to its missile launcher system, but Land Speeder Xykos is fully intact and operational. I take it you intend to scout long rang with Xykos?" Galen said.

    Nodding, Maximus said, "Tenth Squad lost Bracchus and their sergeant is injured. Even if it is only two members, they will have their sense of worth reinforced through action, and they are the best scouts outside of Tenth Company. Can we deploy the Land Speeder?"

    "I will instruct my adepts to widen the shaft. It will also take some work to move Xykos through the ship to the necessary egress point," Galen replied.

    "Excellent. Who can we assign to the move?" Maximus asked.

    "I will send out the serf assignments immediately. I already know from the reports which divisions suffered the least casualties and thus will be able to spare numbers from the funeral. I will of course apologize to both them and Meridius for it," Tiberius stated.

    "Duty overrides other considerations, especially in a situation like this. Not knowing what is going on around us could kill us just as easily as a reactor overload. Whatever penance Meridius assigns I shall be sure to bear with you, my brother," Maximus replied while placing a hand on Tiberius' shoulder and looking him in the eye.

    Returning the gesture and holding the gaze, Tiberius said, "I know my brother, but it is still hard, especially with the fact that the Dirge is unlikely to sail ever again weighing upon my honour."

    "It weighs upon us all, brother, it weighs upon us all," Maximus agreed solemnly. "All we can do is discover the task the Emperor has for us and complete it to the best of our ability."

    "Aye. Ave Imperator," Tiberius stated.

    "Ave Imperator," Maximus and Galen echoed.

    ---

    Index

    Thank you to Angelform for actually doing the first 12 chapters of this, since I am lazy.

    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11
    Chapter 12
    Chapter 13
    Chapter 14
    Chapter 15

    Dirge of Heresy inventory
  2. Chapter Two

    There was a patch of scree on the side of a mountain that had been vibrating on and off in varying strengths for several hours, shaking loose much of the broken rock, although there was plenty more above to replace that which went skittering down the slope. Eventually though the vibration stopped and was replaced by a gentle agitation of a few of the stones as they were shoved out of the way by a metal pole. The pole remained held in the air like a dog's nose for a few moments before it retracted back beneath the scree. Shortly after that the vibration returned, but now there was a new direction for the rock to move as it started to fall into a hole in the underlying stratum of the cliff.

    When the dark void opened up to a size roughly large enough to fit a human head through, the digging stopped once more, this time to allow a pair of skulls to float out of the hole. Bleached and polished ivory with black lines of devotional script scrimshawed into the right sides and strange cybernetic attachments occupying the eye sockets and rears, the macabre machines rose into the air and then began to sweep the area. As the skulls bobbed like corks in a tub, laser scans sweeping out across the desolate rubble field, the hole they had emerged from began to rapidly widen out, becoming a gaping maw that was soon hurling rocks out rather than letting them fall in as previously. As the excavation continued, more skulls floated out of the hole.

    When the hole was large enough for a human to comfortably walk out of, a significantly larger figure emerged from the earth. Heavily armoured in massive plates painted in dark grey tones with strategically placed green trim, the giant looked out at the barren wasteland through faintly glowing green lenses while keeping his weapon up. What he saw was a massive, grey plain of drumlins and moraines, the broken rock coated with a fine layer of lichen that gave splashes of colour. Out on the horizon there was a slight glimmer of white that suggested that the ice sheets that had created the plain were still out there. Panning about, he soon saw the mountain range he had emerged from. A long line of white capped steel peaks that stretched from one horizon to the next, their sides had been scoured by the last time the ice had advanced this far.

    Stalking out away from the still expanding hole, the giant was soon joined by a near identically clad twin and then a third. The third had not only his weapon but a scanner in hand and he was carefully going over the readings before he announced, "All clear for at least five klicks. Lex, Lyp, you are clear to deploy when ready."

    From the dark depths of the now vehicle sized tunnel human sized figures wrapped in environmental suits scrambled out of the way as a deep thrumming noise started up. Floating on strange principles similar to those of the servo-skulls and propelled by enormous fans, the vehicle offered little protection to the pair of armoured giants within other than pure, raw speed and the ability of its crew to strike first with the rapid fire weapons mounted underneath the hull and next to the right seat. Drifting clear of the tunnel, the workers, and their fellow brothers, the driver gave a thumbs up signal to the others before spinning the ducted fans up to the point where they were generating significant thrust.

    Accelerating away, the driver quickly pushed the throttle all the way full, taking the craft up to a blistering three-hundred kilometres per hour, running parallel to the mountain range in a direction the compass was telling them was magnetic east. Trusting in the anti-grav system to compensate for all but the largest changes in elevation and in fast reflexes to avoid other obstacles, the driver whipped across the landscape while the gunner surveyed the terrain through an array of sensors that scanned for artificial constructs or other signs of industrial life.

    "There's a pass in the mountains up ahead, ten klicks," the gunner stated over the internal vox channel.

    "Think we should take it, Lyp?" The driver, Lex, asked.

    "I'm getting lots of returns from the ice to the north of the sort that probably means continental ice sheet. If we're close to a pole, this plain could stretch all the way around to where we started. Unless there's a mining operation out here, not even orks would set up shop this far north. We might as well turn south at the first opportunity. Also, the pass just came in on my thermals and it looks like there might be a warmer valley in there," the gunner, Lyp, stated.

    "The pass it is then," Lex noted as the gap in the mountains came into view, although in retrospect it was obvious from further out due to the cloud formations generated by the wind coming out of the pass, which was strong enough to sweep the area around the gap in the mountains smooth.

    "That's quite the thermal inversion effect," Lex commented, and in short order the Land Speeder was being buffeted by the winds rushing out of the mountain pass. Keeping the powerful vehicle under control, he watched as their speed dropped precipitously as the engines fought the air trying to balance its temperature out via ferocious displacement winds.

    Reaching the top of the pass, a partially frozen over valley was revealed on the other side, the stone sculpted smooth by millennia of glacial activity and then by dry winds blowing through with hot air piped up from the far south by the mountain valleys. Clinging to the warmer floor of the valley was a carpet of lichens and mosses interspersed with cold dwarfed and wind twisted pines. As the Land Speeder rushed out of the worst of the wind and began to pick up speed once again sophisticated sensors probed the plant-life.

    "Life scans indicate the plants are Terran derived, so that means that at least some point humans were on this world if they aren't here still," Lyp announced while looking over the data passed by the Land Raider to his helmet's auto-senses.

    "Praise be to the Emperor for continued miracles," Lex added on as he slipped through the various strands of air in the valley on something between instinct and careful planning, moving like a sidewinder to take the path of least resistance. Following the meandering, ice cut course of the mountains, Lex slipped into a hollow to take advantage of a lack of wind to accelerate further only to slam the fans into reverse and hit the retrorockets to bring the Land Speeder to an abrupt halt so as to not overshooting the sudden discovery within.

    The little hollow had likely been cut by melt water thousands of years ago and offered a respite from the winds for the Land Speeder... and whatever vehicle had left the tire tracks were clearly cut into the fine, gritty glacial till that had accumulated. Undoing his restraints, Lex announced, "Cover me," as he dropped out of the Speeder to take a closer look at the track. As he was crouched over the impressions in the powder, Lyp panned across the horizon with his heavy bolter, seeking out threats.

    "It's not orks, the vehicle was travelling relatively slow in the general direction of the pass," Lex announced, that piece of evidence being more than enough to rule out the reckless xenos. "Looks like a single all-terrain buggy-type vehicle came through here... no more than a day ago, no less than three hours."

    Looking over the maps compiled by the machine spirits of the Land Speeder and the sensors, Lyp announced, "There's some glacial cuts that are creating sensor blind spots within a few kilometres of here. They could have already spotted us."

    Hopping back in, Lex asked, "Do we pursue?"

    Glancing about the valley, Lyp pointed to a nearby pile of snow that was clearly from a recent avalanche and said, "Our arrival was Emperor-blessedly smooth for what it should have been, but there must have been some seismic activity. That had to have attracted attention. Whoever is out here likely has the advantage of knowledge of the terrain and surprise."

    "We need to regain the initiative," Lex concluded.

    Pulling up the map that they had compiled so far, Lyp quickly gestured to the general course of the valley before returning his attention to scanning for threats and said, "The valley looks like it turns back around here. We have the speed and lift to get around and on top of them, and if we stick to the shadows we should be able to lose them."

    "We can do better. If we run for that cleft over here first and then track around in this other dry streambed formation past the turn in the valley, we can break their line of sight to us while making it look like we're running rather than hunting," Lex said while he gestured to the map to show his plan.

    "Excellent idea brother," Lyp noted as Lex kicked them up and out of the hollow and sent them north towards the geological features necessary for their plan.

    Spending a good half hour in silence as they started to make their circuitous way around the valley, searching for just the right places to slip away from any prying eyes potentially hiding in the blind spots on their sensors, the two worked their way south and west by a good five kilometres, although the actual path was significantly longer. Just as Lex was starting to work out how he would ascend the opposite side of the mountain they presumed the buggy was sheltering in, Lyp proclaimed, "Alert Brother! We have an active fusion engine just on the other side of that ridge."

    Abruptly aborting his plan, Lex wheeled the Land Speeder about and settled it in behind a building sized boulder amidst a scree field. Looking over at his battle brother he asked, "What have we got?"

    "A relatively dense column of hot air that just became visible. The machine spirit is tagging it as a probable fusion engine connected to a primitive cooling system venting in the air, due to a lack of combustion products in the column," Lyp reported.

    "Looks like we may have stumbled upon the camp of where the buggy came from, and they have access to better technology than internal combustion. Do we pull back or proceed?" Lex asked, once again asking for his brother's thoughts on the matter.

    "We need information. I should proceed on foot to the edge of the ridge while you keep the Speeder in cover and remain ready for rapid extraction in case of overwhelming hostile response," Lyp stated.

    "Agreed. Emperor be with you, brother," Lex replied as Lyp hopped out of the Land Speeder and began to advance across the broken, grey terrain at a cautious ten kilometres an hour before he went prone upon arrival at the ridge in question. Created by some primordial fault pulling the mountain range apart and then scoured and cut by the glaciers endemic to this mountain range, it was an oasis of relative warmth and shelter from the winds that allowed what could be called a forest to grow.

    However, attention was drawn away from the comparative novelty of trees by the much stronger attractor of the first definitive proof of technologically advanced beings on this world. Taking the form of a small settlement composed of a half dozen one and two storey stone structures made from local materials, it also featured the even further attention focusing additions of a rotary VTOL aircraft and what appeared to be a very small Titan. The humanoid war machine was rather alarming to Lyp in its construction due to the odd angularity of its surfaces that gave it certain aspects that were almost insect-like, but zooming in his auto-senses on the figures milling about the buildings and VTOL craft showed that they were more-or-less human. Lyp chalked the war machine's appearance up to a very different design philosophy, something that happened to human civilizations separated by large spans of time from the rest of the species.

    His zoomed in senses also let Lyp see armed men dragging struggling figures out of the stone structures. Women by the look of things. Lyp felt something bubble up within him, a deep rage that he viciously suppressed. Part of it seemed to have come from some repressed corner of his mind, possibly from the unremembered dream before he was a Marine and he made a note to speak to the Chaplain about it, but another part of it was his Chapter's philosophy on proper behaviour. The Imperium was for all of humanity, and while its function required hierarchy, rank was not privilege to abuse others. That path led to hedonism and sloth and resentment from the lower classes. Still, Lyp did not know enough about the situation to warrant intervention, as it was entirely possible that these people were deserving of their fate, so he held his tongue and hand.

    Then again, from the sloppy weapons handling and dress of the aggressors, Lyp would not have wagered on these men being the local planetary defence force, and if they were then they badly needed a commissar to shoot the majority of them. He watched in stoic silence as one of the struggling figures managed to break free, only to be gunned down in a burst of fully automatic ballistic fire. The shooting was sloppy and relied more upon the rate of fire to hit something than any real marksmanship, and the wounds were all gut shots rather than centre of mass. The act seemed to stir up the inhabitants of the structures, and one of the soldiers seemed to be angry with the one who fired at the fleeing person. He began to wave at the soldiers, who started to fall back to the VTOL, some carrying prisoners while others let loose with undirected automatic fire.

    The extraction process seemed to vitalize the miniature Titan, which had appeared content to scan the ground up until that point. Now apparently given more active orders, it stalked forward to one of the two storey structures and pointed its weapon studded arms at the building. It then opened up with what appeared to be heavy flamers of some sort, although the behaviour of the white hot flames was more like a gas fire than a jellied liquid fire as there was a distinct lack of the stick and burn process most Imperial flamers used. The whole process of destroying the settlement took minutes, during which time the aerial craft took off, but Lyp got the distinct impression that the pilot of the Titan was taking sadistic pleasure in the process, especially when on more than one occasion individuals came running out of the buildings on fire and the machine took the time to kick them. Considering the use of las weapons and stubber fire when the pilot evidently got bored of just using the flamers, these acts were of pure malice rather than of any sort of desire to end suffering.

    Eventually there was nothing left but smoke, molten rocks, and snow turned to cloying mud. Satisfied that there would be no possibility for survival, the Titan fired up enormous jump jets on its back and began to bound along after the aircraft. Lyp continued to observe from his prone position for a minute more after both craft left visual range before he ran back to the Land Speeder and reported what he had just seen.

    "We require additional intelligence. Since there appears to be no effort spent in looking for us, the tracks we found are likely associated with the settlement just sacked," Lex pointed out.

    "Agreed. A live capture would be ideal," Lyp pointed out.

    "You doubt my piloting abilities brother?" Lex replied with a tone of mild but mock hurt.

    "A warrior doubts everything but the Emperor, but still trusts," Lyp countered with his own deadpan even as Lex took the Land Speeder up the mountain they had originally been intending to climb before circumstance had delayed them and made them much more willing to take risks to ensure a live capture. The unspoken plan forming before had been to threaten the occupants of the vehicle with their guns, but now they knew they would need a more personal touch.

    Increasing power to the anti-grav units, Lex began to pseudo-fly up the contours of the mountain, bypassing features that would be insurmountable with a more closely terrain following maneuver. It left them more exposed, but they also took the opportunity to expand the scope of their searching, mapping out more distant peaks and looking for any more tell-tale signs of human activity. Finally, as they reached the peak of the mountain they lowered back down so as to not expose themselves to their prey before they peeked out over the edge.

    "There," Lyp said, pointing to a primitive, wheeled buggy that was mostly a set of metal tubes around an engine with some polymer panels slapped on to cut the wind for the two occupants. From their position, they had definitely been in the in the blind spot of their sensors, but now they had broken for open ground and appeared to be running as fast as their vehicle could take them. Unfortunately for them, the Land Speeder had massively more powerful engines and was unimpeded by rough terrain the way their buggy was.

    "Easy," Lex answered as he threw the fans into reverse and backed up far enough to get a running start up a convenient slope on the rear face of the mountain. Judging the distance carefully from long experience, Lex then threw the throttle into full forward and then past that into the afterburner position. While the Land Speeder was driven by a hardy plasma reactor and the fans were spun by powerful electric motors, there was a supply of fuel grade promethium that could be injected into the air stream and ignited to give the war machine that extra kick necessary to take it past its normal top speed.

    In less than one and a half seconds the Land Speeder reached its maximum speed of three hundred and fifty kilometres an hour, and over the last ten metres of travel Lex kicked the anti-grav system back to maximum. Hitting the edge of the cliff like a ramp, the Land Speeder hurled itself into the air, rapidly going beyond the normal hundred metre ceiling it could fly at and then going into a mostly ballistic arc. Despite himself Lex grinned at this feeling, experienced hundreds of times before in training exercises or in Thunderhawk insertions from the edges of the atmosphere into hot combat zones. Hands flew over the controls as he took the split second to make the leap a guided one.

    He wondered if the occupants of the buggy looked up to see them coming or if the attack vector was a total surprise. He knew for a fact that what happened next was not something that they could have expected. Through deft manipulation of the controls his landing had perfect positioning and velocity matching, so that the Land Speeder was flying sedately backwards at the same sixty kilometres an hour as the buggy a metre off the ground right in front of the vehicle.

    In the last third of a second of the drop when he could feel that the height and speed was easily survivable in the unlikely event of either of them failing, Lyp undid his restraint. At the very nadir of their drop, just as the anti-grav began to shove them up slightly, Lyp sprang forward. The driver, shocked by the sudden arrival of the Marines, had only barely begun to break when Lyp supplied a much quicker but more terminal for the vehicle method by landing on the buggy. The force of an Adeptus Astartes clad in full plate landing on the front axle was more than enough to snap it and bury the nose of the vehicle into the gravel and send it into an end-over-front flip.

    Lyp caught the vehicle with ease on his pauldrons even as his arms punched through the chipped plastic and caught the driver and passenger in his gauntleted hands, simultaneously cradling and restraining them so that they would not be injured in the abrupt stop, and neither could they escape. Metal twisted and plastic shattered, but after a full two seconds of skidding the vehicle came to a stop, half folded around Lyp. The combined suddenness and violence of the stop combined with the abruptness of an Angel of Death grabbing them was more than enough for both men to lose control of their bodily functions, which was all things considered not the least undignified response either Marine had encountered in their relatively short careers.

    "Do you speak High Gothic?" Lyp demanded in the formal tones of the oldest Terran language still spoken by the Imperium. When neither wide eyed man gave a coherent answer, he switched to the significantly more common derivative and asked, "Do you speak Low Gothic?" Sadly, incoherent babbling was all that was said in response, although curiously about one in five words was somewhat familiar.

    "Sounds vaguely Terran at least," Lex commented as he hopped out of the Land Speeder and began to casually pry open the wreckage. Finding a collection of sheets that turned out to be maps, he commented, "I don't recognize the language, but the characters are certainly Gothic, and I think some of the words are similar."

    One of the captives heard the discussion and picked up on one of the words, because he asked in a panicked tone, "Tier-ra?"

    "Terra? You understand the word Terra?" Lyp inquired. The man seemed confused, and Lyp realized that even if the word sounded similar it might not mean the same thing and they didn't have enough knowledge to confirm.

    "Emperor curse trying to do this here and now, there are Librarians back on the Dirge and even an Inquisitor and his staff. They are the ones who can overcome this language barrier," Lex said as he carefully packed away the treasure trove of intelligence found in the maps.

    "I concur, although getting them back on the Land Speeder will be interesting, especially considering the environment," Lyp noted.

    Emptying out the tool locker, Lex enrolled a thermal insulation blanket meant for keeping machinery at the right temperature and said, "This and the locker itself should keep them warm and secure, if not exact comfortable."

    Extracting the two men with but a gesture, Lyp noted the dubious look in their eyes as he brought them to the rather small locker. He gave tiny internal shrug though, as at least one of them would survive and the discovery of the maps would more than make up for the loss of living intelligence that would be extracted from their interrogations... and live or die, the Librarians would be able to figure out their language.
  3. Olive Mind Reader

    Seems good, although I must have missed the acronym, because I am unsure about BT. A hand please?
  4. Battletech.

    Also, yet another excellent start to a story from Academia Nut! Hope this one goes far! :D
  5. I have a beta and a buffer of chapters stored up. This has been in the works for a while now, so I am hoping it will go far too.

    That said, I need to dust something else off briefly.
  6. Hmm. Some of the more fantical of the Emperor's followers, in a universe with a non-warp ftl method and no sign of the God-Emperor.

    Numbers wise - BT can drown them in bodies - eventually.
    Techwise - for all of it's flaws (and from our point of view, scientific backwardness), 40k is high tech, so I would expect the marines to far more effective against these 'mini-titans' than the in-universe elementals are.

    As for which government area they have appeared in, not enough info as of the second posting to state. They all have attrocities like this, both government sponsered and not.
  7. JonBerry FanFic Writer

    BattleTech.

    And don't worry, Acadamia Nut and I have spent quite some time working out the fluff and balance involved.
  8. Actually, BA would do pretty damned well against Space Marines. Elementals are like a Devastator marine and a assault marine combined. Heavy firepower and great mobility.

    This is likely a pirate raid though.
  9. I do hope to see this updated pretty soon! It's not often you get to read a masterpiece written by an experienced Fanfiction writer!
  10. Shyft Freelancer - The Undying

    I am intrigued, and looking forward to more.
  11. LordsFire Tel'dai Knight Errant

    I'm glad to see somebody exploring this, and someone who actually thinks things through at that. I've considered the possible results of a BT/40k crossover a few times, but simply don't have the spare time or energy to have a go of it.
  12. mackon Missing & Presumed Dead

    Wouldn't all the psykers being going nuts with everything they can and cant sense ?
  13. SirLagginton El Interplanetary Ninja Assassin Presidente

    I'm still waiting for a chapter of Big Sister AN! :mad:

    That said, I'm pretty interested in this cross, albeit a little disappointed at the lack of Collegia Titanica.
    TheSandman, Arcman, al103 and 3 others like this.
  14. Of more interest right now is when in BT this take place. Although throwing MD against Space Marines would be fun
  15. Barricade Nyan! I mean, Myon!

    I'd laugh my ass off if they were in orbit of one of the Pentagon Worlds during the original SLDF Civil War that occurred there after Alexandr's death, but before Nicky got his Clans put together.

    The idea of a Crusade back to 'free' Terra would be so damn ironic.
  16. Angelform Celestia’s messenger

    An interesting scenario.

    Always good to see Reasonable Marines (more or less) butting heads with the Inquisition.

    Things should actually be fairly even. While 40K tech is almost certainly better, it isn’t different. BT has pretty much everything the Imperium has (warp aside) just on a smaller scale. Taking numbers into account this will hopefully be a long way from the typical curbstomp crossover.

    Very strange that we haven’t heard anything about the warp in BT yet. Generally the presence or absence of demonic entities, or the warp itself, gets dealt with early on.
  17. VhenRa MechWarrior

    Big question is what region this is in. If we are out in the Periphery (Which is quite likely, considering those were probably Pirates...)

    Well, the concept of Terra isn't going to be high up there. That region practically despises Terra.
  18. Me like this so far.

    As a side note, pity there's no Titan associated AdMech's around to show the IS what exactly a Titan is. And see them all run around headless in sheer terror. For a while at least.
  19. Even if there was, the truly curbstomping aspects of WH40k are currently entombed into a mountain. I don't think they're going to be able to get that BattleBarge(?) into space again, which would strand any non-existing Titan on the planet till they can build up the industry...
  20. windlich Still not on fire

    obviously the correct solution if that was the case would be to strap some of the battlebarge's engines onto the non-existing titan to create a jet pack for it.
  21. VhenRa MechWarrior

    The big question is where they are.

    Their reactions will change depending on if they are in the Inner Sphere proper... or "Middle of God-damn Nowhere Deep Periphery not on any official BT era Map" planet.
  22. as i said, "as a side note"
  23. JonBerry FanFic Writer

    The Warp exists. It's just very, very calm in this particular region of space/time. The Marines and their resources are the only things that affect the warp, although Nut and I did discuss the possibility of the AdMech interpreting the K-F Drive of Jumpships as "skipping a stone across the immaterium" to allow for FTL without a proper Geller Field. Are they right, or are they wrong? Who knows!

    I was originally for the idea of an IG unit going down as they would be less stompy. And Space Marines are so trite. But it's Nut's story, so he agreed to sink their Barge and force them away from direct conflicts. There's only a company of Marines on board, not a full Chapter.

    And yes, these are pretty much the Reasonable Marines with the serial numbers filed off and the backstory changed to something a bit more in line with 40K.
  24. Orkesey!
  25. There's a reason I chose to go with 'sparks' in the title, and that is because the Marines do not have the numbers to constitute a 'flame'. They are very fragile in the grand scheme of things.

    Also, we have a bunch of technological neo-feudal polities who have conflated science and mysticism to varying degrees. They should get along like 16th Century Catholics and Protestants!

    Also, as for Reasonable Marines... sort of. I've got a few things planned to remind you that people from 40k aren't nice. Also, they are paired with a Reasonable Inquisitor and yet still butt heads and got into minor little dick measuring contests. Also, the way the Imperium runs things will be considered kind of weird by the Battletech factions.

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