One by one we slipped out of the office, into was once the bureaucratic area; the long room was divided out with thin white dividing walls around a metre and a half high. Twenty of them on each side, each held a small work area within. The lights which hung from the ceiling blinked on and off ominously.
When we’d walked through here barely ten minutes ago, six hammers were wandering around. Now I could see no sign of them, neither could I see any sign of a struggle, nothing, which scared me more than if there were blood and guts and body fluids lining the walls. I was somewhat expecting that but not this, not this.
My heart thundered in my throat, my clammy, sweaty hands shook so hard I could’ve sworn it was too fast for the naked eye and I shivered in the cold as we slowly, silently followed Brutis, his bolter swept left and right professionally, checking inside every office with a calm I couldn’t help but envy.
My jaw clenched, if I were wearing frigging power armour and wielding a frigging mini-missile launcher, I’d be pretty frigging calm as well.
As we walked I had to fight constantly from slipping my hands into their pockets, now would be the worst time for that.
After what seemed like aeons we finally made it to the other side of the room.
The door was closed, and with one quick movement Brutis opened it and stepped into the thin corridor, his bolter switching left and right.
I stopped, halting in my tracks as I realised something, something that made my shivering jaw drop and my fingernails to dig deeply into my palms.
“The screams,” I said suddenly and louder than I’d intended.
“Yeah?” said Brutis. “What about them?”
Brutis’s brow furrowed, and he glanced at me.
“Attelus is right,” said Karmen as she stepped next to me, her attention to the ceiling. “It’s silent.”
“And what by the golden throne does that mean?” said Arlathan.
Karmen shrugged and pouted; “not sure, detective, it could mean a myriad of different things...”
She let it hang, but my imagination gave me many, many possibilities, all somehow more terrifying and horrific than the last.
I sighed and lost the fight to keep my hands out of their pockets. Where the hell was everyone? What’s going on?
Brutis just grimaced, turned away, signalled the all clear then moved out of sight.
We followed, Wesley going first with his borrowed stub revolver raised, then me, Karmen and Arlathan filled into the corridor after.
Brutis had already made it a few metres on, the back of his sizeable armoured form blocking my view further down the corridor.
The lights weren’t blinking on and off in here which made my advance a little easier.
But something seemed odd, something I couldn’t put quite put my finger on. I furrowed my brow trying to discern what it was; then it hit me. It seemed that Brutis wasn’t walking forward but back toward us, exceptionally slowly.
No, in fact, Brutis didn’t seem to be moving at all, he kept walking in one place. This realisation sent cold fear course painfully up my spine.
“I-” I began but the screams came abruptly back, and the lights began to flick on and off so fast it hurt my retinas.
Something happened, something I couldn’t quite describe, but it seemed that time sped, the screams and the meaty disgusting explosions came quicker than before as though on some horrific fast forward. I fell to my knees, clutching at my head. The screams tore into my mind, causing utter agony to course through my skull.
The lights were now flickering so fast it didn’t seem physically possible, and I fought the urge to scream and the overwhelming need to throw up.
What broke me from this was another scream, and I turned to find it came from Karmen, who was in a far worse state than me. Her attractive face was now scratched and torn as she clawed at herself with wild abandon, her teeth clenched so hard I was afraid they’d shatter or burst out of her mouth, and her large blue eyes seemed to bulge in their sockets.
It was easily the most horrific, sickening, terrifying thing I’d ever seen. I was in enough agony, but Karmen was a psyker, what she was going through I couldn’t even begin to imagine. I had to do something, I needed to do something, but the pain and the screams seemed to paralyse me in place.
For how long I knelt there watching Karmen I had no idea, but it felt like forever as I fought desperately to regain myself, but finally, painfully I did. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done; it was harder than gaining the courage to face the Arco-flagellant, it was harder than trying to move while bedridden and broken. The only thing harder was the fight to stop myself walking in my earlier dream, and I suspected it was only because of that dream I had enough willpower to do it.
I reached out, took Karmen into my arms and pulled her close, she tried to resist, but I was too strong, as I pinned her hands at her sides so she could only feebly claw at me.
We were like that for a long time, and I ignored the flicking lights and the constant screams I couldn’t have been more at peace, whatever this was I’d defeated it, I’d won, and now I wasn’t afraid.
The screams disappeared, and the lights finally became consistent.
Almost Immediately Karmen went limp, and she slipped out of my grasp, slumping lifelessly onto the floor.
I reached down but a hand grasped my shoulder roughly, causing me to almost jump out of my skin and I turned to see it was Brutis, who looked down at me wearily.
“You alright?” he asked with genuine concern.
“Y-yeah, but she isn’t,” I gasped, tears welling and noticing to my horror that my entire front now coated in Karmen’s blood. “W-what the hell just happened?”
Brutis was interrupted as the wall behind him exploded, the thick rockcrete reinforced with flak board seemed to evaporate into a thick cloud of dust and debris which smashed ineffectually against Brutis Bones’ power armour, if he wasn’t there I was sure I would’ve died.
Two of them emerged from the falling dust, snarling and slavering daemons of chaos, they were huge, standing at well over two metres tall despite being hunched forwards and almost as wide. Their “skin” was like the pink muscle and tissue of a skinned human and around them, reality seemed to warp and waver. Their vast, gaping jaws emerged a good metre out of their strangely circular torsos and lined with jagged, razor-sharp teeth that seemed to jut out in every direction possible. Their arms were unnaturally elongated, but their legs were too short, like the hind legs of a canine, but somehow they were still bipedal. But what got me was the lack of eyes, no eyes.
Was I meant to have changed into one of these abominations? I found I could no longer fight my nausea and I spewed violently, making an effort to avoid Karmen’s prone form as I did.
Still as calm as can be, Brutis didn’t hesitate he immediately opened fire.
Until then I’d never heard Bolter fire, the sound was beyond deafening, seeming to shake my very bones, it was like the roar of a god. The first creature was barely a few metres away, the bolter shots were practically point blank, and it writhed back, the high explosive rounds gorging huge holes deep into its torso.
But it was barely fazed, the daemon quickly recovered, snarled and began to charge forward, then Brutis shot it in the snout with the under-slung grenade launcher.
The explosion sent it flying, smashing full tilt into the other daemon behind it and together they fell to the floor, snarling and writhing.
Brutis was relentless he immediately rained round after round on them, as I covered my ears and cowered behind him. His bolter soon clicked dry, and as he reached for another clip, one of the battered, beaten daemons was suddenly up and faster than I thought possible it barrelled into Brutis, sending him careening to the floor and causing the clip fly from his grip.
Its jaws immediately clamped down on Brutis’ torso with such force it would’ve easily pulped an unarmoured man, and slowly it began close it’s mouth, causing Brutis’ armour to crack and bend under the enormous pressure. Brutis cursed, struggling to free himself, but the daemon was too strong.
I climbed to my feet and watched on in horror, unable to do anything as both Brutis’ bolter, and his sword had been pinned under him when he’d fallen.
It was then the other daemon got finally got up, the thing was torn up, but still somehow very much alive then it turned its eyeless attention to me.
For a good few seconds, I stood frozen in place, my watering eyes plastered on the daemon as my numbed mind worked.
My first instinct was to turn and flee, but where? I’d just run back into that office and get myself cornered, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave Karmen and even Brutis behind, I found there was nothing I could do, this thing could take point blank bolter rounds and grenades and still keep going what could I possibly do? I was unarmed, trapped in this corridor with nowhere to go, I was utterly useless.
I was dead.
The daemon’s gaping maw seemed to curl into something like a smile, as though it could sense my realisation, then it went to charge.
The round smashed into the side of its skull with such force it sent the daemon hurtling hard against the rockcrete then another shot followed and another and another, each with pinpoint accuracy.
At first, I couldn’t comprehend it; it took me a while to figure out that the shots were coming from outside, through the huge hole the daemons had caused crashing inside.
It was Hayden, they were hot shots from a long Las, I had no doubt, and only he could replace the barrel then reload so fast.
I was knocked back into reality, flinching in fright as another gun roared in the corridor. The shots flying past me so close I could swear I felt the particles of gunpowder coat me. They hit the daemon that had poor Brutis in its jaws square on, but it may as well have been nothing for all the damage they dealt.
Startled, I looked over my shoulder, it was Wesley, who knelt over an unconscious Arlathan Karkin, his stub revolver raised and smoking, his weathered, aged face pinched with rage, and he’d an alarming amount of blood running from his nose, coating much of his thick, grey beard in red.
“Kid! Get down!” he roared.
I clenched my teeth and immediately threw myself to the floor, wishing Wesley had warned me earlier and watched as his fire peppered ineffectually against the daemon while the now desperate Brutis smashed his fists repeatedly against its impervious hide. Its teeth had almost broken all the way through; soon it’d bite straight into the much softer, squishier Brutis Bones within.
I glanced at the other daemon, Hayden was still keeping it off its feet with his fire, he must’ve shot it dozens of times now, and I couldn’t help wonder. How many rounds did he have left? And what the frig did it take to kill these things?
As if on cue, a bright blue light engulfed the corridor, and a millisecond later the familiar blinding beam of plasma hit the daemon that held Brutis in its jaws.
The accurate shot thoroughly cooked it’s upper jaw, melting it black beyond recognition and the stench of burnt flesh filled the air.
Another shot followed and utterly vaporised the upper half of the other daemon as it writhed from Hayden’s constant fire.
Eyes wide I scrambled to my feet. Castella approached us, her smoking plasma pistol held casually at her side and in her other; my sheathed power sword and behind her were five extremely confused looking Hammers.
“Attelus!” she yelled and threw me my sword which I caught out of midair neatly, despite my dazed state. “You alright?”
I didn’t answer as Castella brought me back to reality, making me remember and with a start I spun, knelt next to Karmen and checked for a pulse. My heart thundered in my throat and panic threatened to overtake me, I’d already lost Elandria, I hoped to hell I hadn’t lost Estella too, no matter how messed up she’d become.
I sighed loudly with relief when I found it, her pulse was weak and weakening rapidly along with the expanding pool of blood that wet my knees.
“She-!” I screamed but cut myself short, seeing that Brutis was on his feet, his damaged, beaten power armour now coated in thick black sludge as he, Wesley and all the Hammers behind Castella had their guns firmly trained on her, who had her hands raised in submission, her plasma pistol dangling from her finger and smiled nervously.
“Who the hell are you?” demanded Brutis.
“I Uhh I’m not an enemy,” said Castella. “Uhh, wait, that makes me sound even more like one, doesn’t it?”
“Who are you,” he growled.
Castella frowned, “I’m on your side-.”
“Oh for frig’s sake, she’s with me!” I roared, taking Karmen in my arms but avoiding looking at her face, I couldn’t bring myself to look at her torn destroyed face again. “Her name is Castella, and she works with me! Can I have some help here? Karmen’s bleeding out! She needs a medicae! Please!”
For a few seconds, everyone stood silent surrounding Castella.
Finally, Brutis lowered his bolter and motioned at the Hammers behind Castella, “you two, take her to medicae Aheth.”
The two Hammers hesitantly did as told and despite their bulks, slipped past Castella, Wesley, and Brutis gently took the limp Karmen from me and moved on, everyone giving them ample room to walk down the corridor all the while distinctly avoiding looking that the dead daemons. I wanted to follow them, but fought back the urge, not sure if Brutis Bones would allow it.
“By the Golden Throne, what the feth is going on?” Brutis demanded.
“W-we dunno boss!” stammered one of the Hammers, never had I heard such a high pitched pitiful tone from such a large person before. “There were screams, and explosions then the vox went dead, then this chick broke in through one of the windows, she knocked out Hamar, and then we chased her up here and...and.”
I furrowed my brow, sure it was simplified, but what the hammer had described seemed to have taken a hell of a lot less time to occur than what happened to us.
Brutis raised his hand to calm the Hammer and gave me and Wesley glances, indicating, perhaps, he was thinking along the same lines. What the frig did that mean? Glaitis had taught me that the warp had a strange effect on time, perhaps it was that?
“We’ve better get moving,” Brutis said. “This isn’t a particularly good place to stand around talking. And you, your name is Castella, right? Thanks for the save.”
Castella nodded, giving Brutis her most charming smile. “It is sir and thank you. I am pleased to finally meet the famous Inquisitor Brutis “Bones” Tybalt in person.”
Brutis shook his head and snorted in amusement, “get your damn lips off my arse and holster that damn Plasma pistol. And you.”
He looked over his shoulder at me.
“You better keep that fething sword sheathed unless I explicitly tell you can draw it, you got that?”
I nodded, only remembering now that I was still holding Karmen’s sword and slipped it into the notches of my flak jacket, while Castella holstered her plasma pistol.
“Let’s move,” he said, turning to leave.
“But uhh,” I said, glancing at Arlathan who still laid unconscious. “What about him?”
“What about him?” growled Brutis.
“W-we can’t just leave him here.”
Brutis sighed, turned, walked past me, scooped up the at least ninety-kilogram Magistratum detective then laid him over his shoulder as effortlessly as I’d lift an underweight, emaciated child.
“We ready to go now?” he asked.
Side by side with Castella and surrounded by Brutis and his men we walked back into the main manufactorum area.
During the walk, I wanted to talk to Castella but refrained, literally clenching my teeth to keep myself blurting out questions.
There were around twenty Hammers in the room; they’d created a cordon surrounding the dozens of women and children as they cowered in the epicentre of the vast room. Despite their fearful, pale faces they held their guns ready and with discipline, I couldn’t help but admire.
It was their women and children at stake here, they had to be, but I’d seen the capabilities of the things attacking us and feared it’d be all for nothing, the most potent weapon among them was a heavy-stubber which may, may do some damage, but not nearly enough. I absently touched the power sword at my hip, I doubted it would do any harm either, but perhaps.
“Boss!” yelled one of the Hammers as he saw us, and broke the circle to approach, he was shorter and less bulky than the others, his thin, wiry arms covered in tattoos. “Thank the Emperor you’re alright! With the vox down we feared the worst. What’s going on? I saw that woman being carried to Aheth and why is that man on your shoulder?”
Brutis raised an eyebrow, “Verenth, you didn’t hear anything upstairs?”
Verenth’s brow furrowed in bemusement, “no boss. What the hell is going on?”
“We’re under attack,” stated Brutis bluntly.
“By who? The Magistratum? Taryst’s organisation? They’ve betrayed us?”
Brutis clenched his teeth, “no, I think, as we speak, they are being slaughtered themselves.”
“Enough questions, Verenth I will tell you everything soon,” interrupted Brutis, placing a comforting hand on the Hammer’s shoulder. “I see you’ve got the men readied, good work.”
Verenth nodded but looked unconvinced.
I quickly stole a sidelong glance at Castella, which she immediately noticed and returned me a huge, closed-eyed grin.
I smiled back, slightly, unable to share her enthusiasm.
Since the deaths of the daemons the screams had disappeared, it was curiously silent outside. Garrakson, Torris and the Olinthre-thing were out there I hoped they were okay, well except the Olinthre-thing, of course, I couldn’t care less about that, thing.
The Hammers parted as we approached, giving us ample room and amongst the cowering crowd was a man in medical fatigues he was tending to Karmen who lay lifeless on a cot, wrapping her face with bandages.
“Aheth,” said Brutis as he roughly dropped Arlathan’s body onto a nearby cot. “Got another for you.”
Aheth a man looking in his mid-seventies gazed up at Arlathan through half-moon spectacles.
“Why thank you, Inquisitor, you certainly make sure that I will not have a moment of laxity. Therefore, I will never turn to heresy.”
What Brutis’s reply was, I didn’t hear, as I approached the side of Karmen’s bed, she was still unconscious, her features covered in bandages but I could see she was still breathing, still alive.
I looked over my shoulder to Aheth, “is she...will she?”
“She will live,” He said with a nod while he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“But, I am sorry, there is nothing I can do for her face, I can stem the blood, but the scars are, permanent,” said Aheth, with genuine sympathy. “I...I find it strange, though, her wounds they seem to be... self-inflicted, do you know anything about that?”
I didn’t reply; I couldn’t, I looked away and curled my hands into fists, trying to content myself with the knowledge she was going to live. I wasn’t surprised about her face; I’d watched as she’d torn her beautiful features apart. Now she was like me, forever scarred, but far, far worse. I wished I’d the strength to been able to stop her sooner; I should’ve told everyone it was a trap earlier. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to get captured by Edracian. All of this was the consequence of my actions, of my cowardice and selfishness, so why the hell couldn’t it affect me and me alone? Why did Estella have to suffer because of it?
The hand that suddenly grasped my shoulder almost made me jump out of my skin, and I turned to find it was Castella Lethe, who smiled at me reassuringly.
“Keep yourself together, Attelus Kaltos,” she said. “We’ve still got a lot left to go through, yet.”
“Yeah, sorry Castella,” I stammered then met her eyes unwaveringly. “Castella, what the hell is going on out there?”
Castella dropped her gaze guiltily.
“Brutis is right, Attelus,” she said softly. “It’s a slaughter, they...They came from nowhere. We expected an ambush but nothing like this. Dozens were dead within moments. I killed as many of those, things, as I could on my way here, but there are many, many more. Dozens more, at least.”
I shook my head and clenched my jaw. “What about, Torris? Garrakson? Hayden and Darrance? Did you see anything of them?”
“I left Hayden and Darrance on the northern building, they were fine, then.” She shook her head. “I’m Sorry, Attelus but I never saw anything of your squad mates.”
I grimaced, disappointed but not surprised, I couldn’t have imagined the chaos outside, and Garrakson and Torris were situated hundreds of metres down the street.
“How many shots you’ve got left for your plasma pistol?” I asked.
“One clip, eight shots of that left,” said Castella. “I had three before all this, and it’s ten shots a clip.”
My eyes widened, impressed, that may’ve been twenty dead daemons at her hand already, well twenty-two including the two upstairs.
“That’s eight you could take care of, once they breach,” said Wesley. “That’s if you don’t waste any, shooting any of us in the back.”
Castella’s attention fell to the floor again, “I’m-.”
Wesley raised his hand to hush her and shook his head. “I was joking, don’t apologise, Castella, as I told young...Attenlus here, what you did to me was part of the job. It was natural we were enemies, and now unlikely allies and I said it couldn’t get any more convoluted. Looks like I was wrong.”
Despite Wesley once again forgetting how to pronounce my name, I smiled. Never had I ever met someone so incapable of holding a grudge before.
“Me and the men will have to kill the others with concentrated fire,” said Brutis. “But after seeing their constitutions first hand, I’m still not sure if that’ll be enough.”
Castella turned to me, “Attelus, I think...”
“You think, what?”
“I think,” she said hesitantly. “I think, you’re a better swordsman than me. You can use that power sword to full effect, do what you do best, aim for their limbs.”
I stared at her, taken aback by the compliment and that it may actually work. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
“B-but you’re a swordswoman, not a swordsman, ” I pointed out, quickly seeing the loophole in her compliment.
Castella glared at me with such intensity I flinched.
“So, we have a plan, what do we tell the men?” said Wesley.
“The truth,” said Brutis bluntly and he turned, “everything.”
“Everyone!” he roared at the top of his lungs. “Everyone I have something I need to say!”
Instantly, any talk in the room silenced and every pair of fear filled eyes were on Brutis.
I raised my eyebrow, and the people’s fear was quickly overtaken by bemusement, and a hushed conversation began to start.
“I’m sorry for everything,” Brutis yelled. “Everything, that has happened over the last seven months, all the deaths, everything, it is all my fault. I drew you into this debacle, into this secret war and In truth. I’ve been using you.”
The conversation was gone, everyone just stared at Brutis in shocked disbelief.
“I came to you promising absolution. That serving the God-Emperor with me would absolve you of all your crimes. After everything, after all the fighting, all the sacrifice. You have more than earned it. You have served the Emperor with righteousness and conviction I have never seen, nor will I ever see again!”
Brutis paused, allowing his words to sink in.
“What is outside,” he said sombrely. “Is an enemy none of you have ever encountered before, beasts of the warp, abominations in service to the ruinous powers. I will not lie! They are far stronger and tougher than any human, it was one of them that did this to my armour, with only their teeth and soon, very soon they will break into here, they will crash through these walls to slaughter us all! As they slaughtered the Magistratum surrounding us before.”
He paused again and slowly looked over everyone around him, including me, Wesley and Castella.
“But the thing is, unlike the idiots outside. We won’t let them; we aren’t weak, we are the Emperor’s chosen! We fight in his name! And no one! Not heretic nor daemon will stand before our righteousness! If we stand together if we work as one. We! Will! Win! The God Emperor is behind us! With him at our back no matter the enemy, no matter the odds! Victory will be ours!”
The roar from the Hammers was utterly deafening, and I had to fight the urge to cover my ears. I was highly impressed by Brutis’ oratory skill, but not taken in nearly as much as everyone else. I couldn’t have cared less whether the Emperor was behind us or not, if we were to survive this somehow, it would be because of skill and discipline, not because of some god working with us.
But these idiots believing that wouldn’t hurt our odds, much.
I sighed, finding I needed a smoke.
So we waited, and by the Emperor, it was the hardest wait, I’ve ever had the pleasure of waiting through in my very, very long life. The tension in the air was horrific, it made me feel ten times heavier and my every movement was half as fast than it should’ve been.
Just after Brutis’ speech he, Wesley and Castella had gone upstairs to check outside but had come back almost straight away, claiming that when they’d looked outside, they could only see nothing, just pitch black nothingness. By the Emperor Edracian had thought of everything, hadn’t he?
Every few seconds I’d look over to Estella, It was strange every time, it came with a horrific, cold pain, like a metal claw digging its sharp fingers deep into my heart. I’d watch for long enough to make sure she was breathing then turn away, and although I knew the pain would come, and knew she’d live, I’d still look again and again.
I could also sense the animosity from every Hammer in the room, like an overwhelming body odour stench. None would talk or even acknowledge me, but when my I turned away I could sense them glaring daggers at my back.
Or perhaps it was just my rampant paranoia? With this thought, I quickly glanced over my shoulder, managing to catch a few of the nearest as they attempted to avert their attention.
I clenched my jaw, turned away and sighed. Great, I was going to fight alongside people who hated my guts, but in all honesty, I couldn’t blame them. I would be responsible for the deaths of dozens and dozens of their comrades, perhaps even some of their family members. I’d just have to be careful not to get a las round or a bullet in the back while we fought.
For what felt like the hundredth time, I checked my wrist chron, according to that it’d only been five minutes since Inquisitor Brutis “Bones” Tybalt made his inspiring, uplifting, awe-inspiring speech.
I sighed again when the hell did I become so frigging cynical?
Again I briefly checked on Karmen, finding her once more still alive and still unconscious.
As I began to turn away, a sudden, fearful yell echoed through the room causing everyone to jump in fright and turn to its source.
Arlathan Karkin sat suddenly bolt upright in his cot, his eyes bulging in their sockets, then he began to writhe and convulse and scream woefully.
Aheth ran from Karmen’s bedside, calling and motioning the nearest Hammers to his aide.
As I watched I furrowed my brow and gripped the hilt of my sheathed power sword, was this daemonic possession?
Three Hammers and Aheth struggled with the spasming, screaming Karkin; all attention was on them and...Then it hit me, the realisation smashed me like a punch to the face, and I drew my sword, activating it in a flurry of sparks and cried out a warning.
But it was too late, suddenly six of the daemons crashed through the west wall, breaking through thick, rockcrete as though it was nothing,
Terror took over some of the off-guard Hammers, some reeled and screamed, some fell to their knees and curled into foetal positions, wailing pitifully, some just fainted on their faces, and the stench of crap and piss wafted into the air.
Yet many kept their heads as I heard Brutis roar the order to open fire and a deafening cacophony followed.
Shotguns, Auto guns, las guns, heavy stubbers and Brutis’ bolter combined to tear two things to shreds immediately; not even their horrific constitutions could stand up to such a concentrated, disciplined deluge. My admiration for the Hammers of Omnartus grew.
Castella’s plasma pistol shot soon after, vaporising through another.
I raised my sword, clenched my teeth and despite my every instinct screaming not to, I charged.
One daemon seemed to sense my approach and punched out its elongated arm which I weaved out the way from, but that was all it got as a millisecond later I was on it and roaring with such animal fury it tore my throat apart, I struck.
Behind my slash, I put every ounce of my weight, every millimetre of my momentum, every bit of my strength. I yelled out as horrible pain erupting up my arms, but I managed to ignore it. I clenched my teeth so hard I could’ve sworn they’d explode from my skull and with one final roar, my sword finally tore free.
My momentum carried me further forward, and I skidded to a halt, sliding around just in time to see it collapse massively onto its side.
I had no time to even grin in triumph before another daemon attacked, It’s enormous jaws closing toward me, forcing me to leap backwards. I ducked as it swung around its arm and sidestepped as it smashed it’s other downward, denting in the rockcrete floor with its force, sending even more dust and debris into the air.
Never before had I felt so strong, so fast, so nimble. Was it because of my newly enhanced bone structure? That would definitely contribute, but as my heart thundered in my ears, I found it was something else that drove me on, that made me greater than I’d ever been before. I had something to fight for. No SOMEONE to fight for, Estella Erith. For the first time in my life, I was fighting for more than just me and my survival. I had her. It didn’t matter that she’d lost herself, it didn’t matter that was now forever scarred, it just didn’t matter. I was prepared to die for her, as simple as that.
Finally, I knew what it felt like to have something worth fighting for, why the Imperials and worshippers of chaos were so keen to sacrifice themselves for what I’d have thought to be nothing. But I wasn’t fighting for some uncaring corpse or those sadistic, inhuman things that only use mortals as their playthings, Estella was real, tangible.
That may’ve been why I’d somehow managed to save those people in the Twilight bar.
The daemon came again; its huge maw crashing at me, which I weaved under and slid onto its flank. Cutting into its knee with two quick slashes. I knew I couldn’t separate its limbs without the momentum of another charge; my only hope was to slowly, methodically carve through.
Lightning fast it turned, punching around wildly, but I crouched just in time. Feeling the onrush of air over my head, then wheeled back as it followed with its other arm, smashing low at my legs.
I dashed forward, nimbly avoiding its closing jaws and suddenly I was back on its side, cutting into its knee with wild abandon. This time managing six before being forced back.
My breaths were now ragged gasps, and my arms ached like hell. I was at my very best but still human, I couldn’t keep this up forever. It could though, that was the problem.
As if sensing this, the daemon suddenly lunged, it’s arm flying like an uppercut. I sidestepped but was almost caught off guard as simultaneously its other arm came round.
I had no time to dodge, so with all my weight and strength, I smashed my sword down. It did little damage and barely changed its course, but the momentum forced me off my feet, into a leapfrog that threw me just over its attack and into a roll.
Undeterred by my acrobatics, It scythed out both arms, one low, one high, forcing me further back.
For a brief second, I wondered what was happening to everyone else right now; I was so focused in my enemy I couldn’t even tell what was going on around me. Then I fell into another charge.
It’s right swiped low, I jumped over the blow, throwing myself into the air like a speeding bullet and descended straight at its damaged leg. Despite my ravaged throat I roared again and cleaved with all my might. It’s limb immediately gave way, the power of my strike causing it to fall on the floor face first.
Rolling to negate the impact, I spun to see it struggling futilely to get up.
My smile was gone as instinct forced me to turn. Finding yet another daemon towering over me, it’s mouth curling into something like a grin.
Forcing back my gasps, I readied my sword, so much effort and time to kill just one and there were still dozens more left. Frig in hell.
The plasma round hit the daemon from the side, almost bisecting its bulbous torso in two.
Through the chaos, Castella approached as she holstered her pistol and drew her duel power blades in a blaze of blue grinning at me from ear to ear.
“Ran outta ammo,” she said with a shrug, stepping by my side. “Sorry, it took me so long to come to your aid, Attelus. So! let’s show these friggers just what Glaitis’ best can do, huh?”
Unable to reply, I grinned and nodded back then side by side, we charged.
We hit our first daemon on its flank. The thing had already made its way through the hammer’s wall of munitions and was tearing them apart. A small mound of shredded, ravaged body parts scattered around it, while the surviving, surrounding Hammers ineffectually shot into it.
I’d always been a fast runner, perhaps even the fastest in our organisation, but now it felt like I flew. I’d outpaced Castella by a good two metres already, so the first to fall on it. In the last metre, I leapt into a skid, my crackling power sword slashing seven times into its right leg while sliding onto it’s left, repeatedly cutting into its other knee.
The Daemon immediately turned, snarling silently as it swung out at me. I leapt back, just out of its reach and it never saw Castella coming.
Simultaneously we charged; me toward its right. Castella, its left, together we sliced off its legs, causing it to collapse straight onto its huge snout, with a tremendous crash.
Another turned from its slaughter its teeth and claws covered in blood and gore and came at us, punching out both claws one after the other.
I swayed just underneath mine and Castella cartwheeled from hers. I took the brief opportunity to glance at her lithe, supple, body gloved form for a second. Emperor, sometimes I loved my job. I was just lucky that Glaitis seemed to have a habit of hiring attractive women into her organisation.
But we were lucky that these daemons seemed too stupid to understand the concept of teamwork. Their attack would’ve been much more successful if they did, which meant we would’ve all been dead already.
The Daemon recovered quickly, swinging out both arms at once.
I was forced to drop onto my side; I’d gained confidence so slashed up into its arm as it flew over me, keeping the blade horizontal or else be disarmed. These things felt no pain, which we could use to our advantage. Although they also seemed to lack any blood, anatomy or bone structure, just beings of solid, hardened material. Meanwhile, Castella flipped gracefully out of the way.
My jaw set, as much as I enjoyed watching Castella bounce around, the use of cartwheels and flips to evade enemies irked me, it was unneeded and forced your eyes off your opponent. Castella was skilled enough to get away with it, I guessed. I hoped.
She landed, and I rolled away as it swung back its arm along the ground in a bid to hit my prone form. Finishing in a crouch, a split second later we were moving, sprinting straight at it.
Once again it punched its claws at us, I sidestepped mine and lightning-quick slashed my sword twice into it, first was an overhead attack the second into the bottom of its arm.
Castella immediately saw what I was doing and leapt out of the path of the attack at her. Flipping into an overhead arc and smashing her power blades straight into the arm flying at me, causing it to buckle slightly under the impact.
The daemon’s jaws snapped straight at us, like a ravenous berserk canine, forcing me to slide away and Castella to pirouette back.
It snarled striking it’s right at me while sweeping it’s left toward Castella, I leaned away from it, and she cartwheeled over hers. This time it didn’t draw back its arms, but swept back its left and cutting across it’s right.
I clenched my teeth, almost caught off guard and jumped just out the way desperately. It was learning. Perhaps they weren’t as stupid as I thought they were.
With a silent, almost frustrated snarl, it smashed down both its arms simultaneously.
I gave a brief grin at Castella; then we were moving, I sidestepped the attack falling at me, bringing my blade across the underneath of its arm as quickly as I could, using the attack’s force against it. The blow smashed straight into the floor, caving it in under the impact. The extraordinary power of the wave of thrown up dust knocked me off my feet, smashing sidewards onto the floor, pain cut through me, but I still saw Castella. She spun through mid-air, building momentum then slashed both blades with pinpoint accuracy, into the giant gouge caused by our teamwork.
Its arm gave way without resistance, slicing clean off.
Despite being winded I was abruptly on my feet, both of us taking advantage of the opening to charge it’s right leg, but it was a feint. Instead, we dashed around to it’s right and began to hack it’s leg apart. It tried to turn but was already following us from it’s left so it’s useful arm was out of range. It’s leg finally gave under our barrage, and it fell, straight on top it’s left arm, pinning it.
We paused for a split second, glancing to take in our surroundings.
Numerous Hammers lay dead, their body parts and blood coating much of the floor. Yet those alive had stood their ground, around thirty remained. The brave, brave bastards, making a living wall between them and their loved ones. A few daemons were dead or incapacitated amongst the many dead humans, I counted sixteen total and wondered just how much ammunition, Brutis and his men had left.
Six more daemons were emerging from the darkness, through the massive gap in the wall, seemingly just materialising into being.
Through my gasping, I clenched my jaw and glanced at Castella with a furrowed brow. Also struggling for breath, she met my gaze. Her expression was uncharacteristically grim. We couldn’t keep this up for much longer; these things were frigging relentless. The deafening thunder of gunfire echoed through the room, countless shots zipped straight past Castella and me, instantly causing one of the creatures to buckle and collapse under the barrage.
The rest charged but another was blown apart in mid-flight, Brutis and his men having time for just one more barrage. Castella and I met one, countercharging it.
But it did something unexpected, it abruptly stopped and smashed down both its arms curling it’s countless fingers together in one blow.
Taken by surprise, Castella and I jumped desperately to evade, me slipping sidewards, her cartwheeling outward.
It’s arms impacted heavily into the rockcrete, kicking up more dust and debris.
Castella turned to me and tilted her head side to side slightly. I instantly understood, and we slid into a sprint, both of us dashing in opposite directions as it drew back its enormous arms to attack again.
Simultaneously it swiped at me and punched toward Castella. Using all my strength, I leapt as its arm came low for me. Drawing my knees into my chest I flew over its attack, but I jumped further than I’d anticipated, a good two metres in fact and hit the ground hard, my legs buckled underneath me I fell into a roll and recovered just in time to see the damned thing had followed me not Castella.
It lunged, while it’s left striking forward, followed by it’s right. I ducked the first and sidestepped the second. Then it’s bulbous bulk attempted to barrel into me.
I dived, throwing myself flat on the floor and watched as it passed over me by barely a millimetre then as a blur; Castella sprinted after it.
Instantly, I kicked my feet out and was running with her as the daemon was still in mid-turn.
We hit it at the same time, Castella jumped, spinning in mid-air like an ice dancer, me I just charged and struck with all my strength. No pain erupted up my arms as my powersword struggled to cut through, the numbness had taken over any other feeling. Under our strikes the leg gave way and as the others did it collapsed making me and Castella leap to avoid getting crushed under its bulk.
I smiled and turned to Castella.
Attelus! A voice suddenly echoed through my thoughts, making me flinch in fright.
Attelus! Can you hear me!
It took a second to reply, taken aback as I recognised who it belonged to, Estella.
“E-Estella?” I said, my voice barely a whisper from my sore throat and Castella treated me with a confused look. “I-Is that you?”
Estella’s disembodied voice sighed, yes it’s me Attelus.
There’s no time to explain, all you need to know is that you need to get out of that building, now!
I took a second to glance in the general direction of her unconscious body; I couldn’t see her through the crowd of shooting, screaming, dying Hammers.
Because Attelus, I’ve found how the daemons are coming from the warp, the conduit. I need you to get your arse over there now to stop it!
Because if anyone else comes within twenty metres of the conduit, they will turn into one of them. You’re the only one who can get close, the only one immune, because of what the Farseer did. She stopped your earlier possession so it cannot happen again.
I shivered as I remembered the Farseer telling me that I needed to leave, was this what she meant?
“How the hell do you know that?”
I just do Attelus, now the conduit is-
Her words were interrupted as she screamed, an agonising scream that hurt my head and made me clench my teeth.
“Estella! Estella! You there? Estella!” I roared.
Yeah, I’m here, I-I’m here, please Attelus, you must go, the conduit is located west of your position, a kilometre away it’s...It’s...
Her voice was fading rapidly, as though she was walking away slowly.
It’s in an old ministorum church; you have to stop it or else more and more daemons will emerge until we’ are all dead.
“And I’ve gotta go alone?”
Yes! Or else anyone with you will turn into a daemon; not everyone has a Xenos fairy godmother protecting them! But I will guide you; I will guide you as best as I can, now go!
I turned to Castella, wide-eyed.
“You alright?” she asked.
“I’ve got to go.”
She smiled, “yeah, it was kinda hard to miss that.”
Castella pouted and shrugged, “no need to apologise, it sounded important, now you better go. God Emperor be with you.”
I smiled nodded, turned and sprinted full tilt toward the gaping hole in the wall.
My heart lunged in my throat; I was scared, scared of the wall of the black I was sprinting straight at.
“Estella, I don’t like this.”
Just keep going Attelus! You’ll be fine! Don’t stop! Right now only you can pass through that barrier!
I grimaced, clenched my teeth and raised my power sword protectively, then plunged straight into the barrier.
I kept running through that pitch black. Slashing my sword wildly around of me while constantly fighting the rising panic from the horrific claustrophobic, darkness, which seemed to weigh me down and the thought at the back of my mind. The little voice was saying that I’d be stuck inside this darkness, forever.
I wanted to close my eyes; I wanted for this to end, I wanted.
Then I burst out of the darkness and into the street, I reeled from the abruptness of it, the unnatural and illogical change that I wasn’t at all ready for. The change I couldn’t have begun to be ready for.
The underhive was no longer dark; a sickening crimson light now engulfed the run-down, ill-maintained buildings around me. A thick, red cloud completely covered the rockcrete ceiling from the over hive above.
There were also three daemons standing in the street waiting for me.
“Aww crap,” I said as they began to charge.
From the flank, I heard the Long-las shot that smashed into one of them, sending it off it’s feet to the rockcrete.
As a blur Darrance descended on another, with a roar he slashed his power scimitar deep into it, then backflipped as it attempted to swing at him wildly
The last was almost on me drawing back it’s long arm to punch.
The Intense, deafening fully automatic fire tore it apart in mid-charge, and I turned to see Garrakson and Torris approaching. Garrakson held a smoking Autocannon, with a smoking cigar clenched in his teeth while Torris had his shotgun raised and was grinning at me.
“Hey kid!” yelled Garrakson as he finished the daemon attacking Darrance in a withering hail of fire, simultaneously spitting out his cigar. “Good to see you’re in one piece!”
“H-How?” was all I could manage in reply.
Garrakson frowned and glanced down at his Autocannon, “Oh! Put it in the trunk just before we left, y’know. Just in case.”
Then he finished the third with another flurry.
“Although, I’m almost out of ammo now!”
Darrance approached, his expression grim.
“Keep going, Apprentice,” he growled. “We will cover you.”
I furrowed my brow, clenched my jaw and nodded acknowledgement. I didn’t need to ask any more questions; I knew Karmen had organised this. Then fell into another sprint. While sheathing my sword, I went for the nearest building, a one-storied hobble of a structure.
Like most of Omnartus the under hive was a Byzantine maze of alleyways and streets I was almost incapable of getting lost, but if I moved through the alleys, the creatures could easily corner or surround me. I had no choice.
Using the climbing skills drilled into me by my dad I ran up the wall, making it up far enough to grab the edge of the second story and with surprising ease pulled myself onto it.
The roof was flat, as was every other one around it, The heights of the structures varied, but the tallest wouldn’t have been more than six stories.
I looked around trying to find the church, but the buildings around must’ve obscured it. With a heavy sigh, I moved, crossing the ten-metre width of the building within a millisecond to leap across the two-metre gap onto the next
Stumbling with the impact I clumsily recovered, now the exhaustion was really hitting me, my legs felt like rubber, and I struggled for every breath. But I couldn’t stop I had to keep going, and exhaustion be damned.
Suddenly two Daemons were on the other end of the building, pulling themselves from the two-metre wide alleyway with horrific ease. The rockcrete roof under them was buckling and cracking to support their tremendous weights.
I growled out my anger and instantly turned left, leaping across another two-metre gap, grabbing onto a two-story building and hauled myself up. The daemons were only a second after me, I could hear their separate heavy landings, and glanced over my shoulder, just in time to catch them attempting to strike at my back.
I swerved side to side, just making it out the way, so their attacks smashed into the rooftops instead of me.
But I clenched my teeth, and my eyes widened as I saw the next gap, fighting the sudden urge to skid to a stop. It must’ve been about four metres wide and on the other side of the street was a wide four-story building, the only way through was a large window about a metre up.
You can do it Attelus! Came Estella’s voice in my mind.
I furrowed my brow in determination, spurred on by her words and didn’t hesitate. With a roar, I jumped.
It felt like I flew, literally flew and I couldn’t hide the amazement that I was actually making it. I covered my face with my arms just before I hit the glass, hoping to hell my flak jacket and gloves would protect me from being torn to shreds. With a deafening Crash! I broke through, the window giving away with surprising ease under my momentum. Shards cut into my jacket, some managing to pierce far enough to cut slightly into my forearms and torso. One managed to clip my ear, one gashed across my scalp making me scream out the agony. I careened immediately losing my footing as I landed and hit the floor hard rolling clumsily to negate the impact.
I finished on my side. Gasping in pain and breathlessness, feeling like my entire body was on fire. I began to crawl to my feet.
It was then a giant claw snaked straight through the floor where my head once was, and the other two daemonic pursuers crashed into the room. Spurred on by fright, I was up and running again, looking around desperately for another window but found none, I was in a small abandoned hab, barely a few metres wide. I ran for the door, opened it and turned left into a long hallway. A second afterwards I heard a massive crash, as the daemons barreled straight through the wooden wall after me.
Then something happened, something that sent a painful jolt of panic up my spine, I heard a huge, muffled bang followed by another then another. The floor beneath me began to shudder, it shuddered and made a popping grinding noise, then abruptly collapsed. Another daemon emerged from the darkness below, its snarling smile snapping straight at me. But fueled by instinct I jumped, managing to cross the newly made gap, just out of reach of its gaping mouth.
I kept running, fighting to make every metre, every step. Glancing over my shoulder to veer around the daemon’s attacks as they smashed toward my back
Finally, I made it to the end of the hall, reaching a staircase and immediately began to ascend, hoping to hell that there was a way to get to the roof easily up there.
I reached the next level, pausing to see at the end of the corridor on my left was what looked to be an emergency exit. Why the hell there wasn’t one on each side was beyond me, and I began to run toward it, glancing over my shoulder to see if they’d followed me. I couldn’t mask my bemusement when I saw they weren’t and I skidded to a halt.
As if in answer the sound of more crashes and whines came, then the floor began to shake and buckle.
I immediately realised what they were doing and began to run just as the floor started to collapse.
I barely kept ahead of the falling floor as the daemons smashed through the dividing walls beneath me.
In the last few metres, before I found the door I had to jump as the floor finally overtook me, barreling into the door with such force, it flew abruptly open, and agony sheered through my arm. I was sure my arm would’ve broken I may’ve broken almost every bone in my body if it weren’t for the enhanced bone structure gifted to me by the Farseer.
My momentum was too much as I barreled through that door and onto the fire escape, I hit the metal handrail so hard I saw stars and careened straight over it, into free fall.
I screamed, my hands desperately clutching for the handrail, but in my panic I missed.
My heart in my throat, my feet kicking the air futilely I fell for a story, barely managing to grasp onto the next handrail. I roared out in agony as I abruptly stopped, feeling my arm almost being pulled from its socket and I smashed into the bars.
Gasping, bloody, hurting like hell, I grabbed the handrail with both my hands and pulled myself up, so my feet were against the edge of the ledge, looking over my shoulder at my surroundings.
It was another alleyway, two metres wide and the adjacent building was three stories high, one higher than me. It was a stretch, but I was lucky it wasn’t taller.
I clenched my teeth and pushed myself into mid-air.
Just then, just then, one of the daemons suddenly burst through the wall, it’s snapping jaws missing me by less than a hair’s breadth as I leapt and spun, turning to catch the ledge of the next building, ignoring the pain flaring through me, I vaulted over the parapet and rolled onto the roof. Immediately clambered to my feet and continued running. Hearing another great big crash as the daemon smashed into the building below.
I glanced back to see the other two pulling themselves onto the roof just after me.
“Karmen!” I yelled through my gasps as I leapfrogged over a thick dividing wall. “Karmen! How far do I have left to go!”
Just another six hundred metres to go, Attelus, but you need to turn to your right!
“I already figured that-!” I cut myself short as more movement caught my eye, it was another sprinter crossing the rooftops. It was Darrance who came on one of the daemons from its side, his long scimitar, cutting into its leg, hitting with such momentum that the limb gave way with almost no resistance.
A Long Las round smashed into the other, knocking it off balance and causing it to veer near the edge. The second shot threw it over the ledge where it dropped abruptly out of sight.
I clenched my teeth, wondering why the hell they’d taken so damned long and turned right.
The building I veered toward was the tallest one I saw before. A very long six-story hab block, that once may’ve been a hotel, a very long time ago.
It was a three-metre gap, but I leapt without hesitation straight onto the fire escape a story down. I hit the floor with a clang, rolled into a crouch and started up the steep staircase.
The third daemon then burst through the wall of the last building, flying straight towards me like a bullet.
Cursing colourfully, I threw myself back down the stairs a millisecond before it collided through the fire escape stairs and wall alike.
Debris began to rain at me, lethal chunks of the fire escape.
Without thinking, I clenched my teeth and drew my sword, activating the power field in a blaze of blue, then proceeded to cut apart the debris falling my way. I and my blade were complete blurs as it slashed and smashed and I dodged and weaved what it missed. On hindsight, it was an insane, foolish and desperate move that only exhausted me more. But my tired, fatigued self couldn’t come up with any better ideas. Yet somehow it frigging worked, don’t ask me how it just did. Well, it worked until the entire frigging fire escape began to break apart and collapse.
I turned, smashed in the nearest window and dived through into the darkened interior beyond. Immediately I was up and sprinting, just before a large chunk of stairs crashed through the wall that would’ve crushed me if I hadn’t moved.
I stopped and bent forward to catch my breath, fighting to keep my legs from buckling under me and the horrid nausea welling in my guts. I’d pushed myself to the limit and beyond, and I’d still had a long way to push yet.
“Frig it,” I muttered under my breath.
Instinct made me move, turning to see Darrance leaping through the hole after me, as agile as a cat he rolled and stood, glaring at me from under a hooded brow.
He abruptly shushed me and pushed past, listening intently with his scimitar readied.
I ignored him and continued to try to catch my breath, wishing there was some way to stop the constant aching.
Darrance suddenly spun, grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me to the floor just before the daemon’s arm smashed through the wall, sweeping barely a millimetre over my head. Darrance was already moving, lunging through the falling slivers of wood at the daemon, yelling, “move Apprentice! I will hold it off!”
Clumsily I did as told, scrambled onto my feet and I stumbled on. Wondering if I was going to succeed or even if I’d survive.
My grip tightened on the hilt of my sword. Everyone was relying on me, everyone needed me to succeed and I will, no matter the cost.
With new found determination I ran on, deeper into that vast, dank hab building.
I will succeed, no matter the cost.