I watched on both fights as one of Taryst’s mercs clumsily bandaged my wound, so engrossed I barely felt the pain from the process all the while I monitored the vox traffic. We’d taken the ballroom, but at the cost of dozens of more lives, all that was left here were the two assassins Castella and Darrance were still fighting, and around us, hundreds of more mercs and Magistratum enforcers ran to take the building. Giving the assassins a very respectable berth as they passed.
The enemy had, much to my non-existent surprise, fortified the stairways leading to the top of the building. According to the vox, every staircase had three sandbag walls set on them and behind each were at least six enemy mercs, then placed at the top wall were two heavy stubber emplacements. Not just that but they’d also fortified the balconies, allowing dozens of more enemies to lay fire onto our flank as we tried in vain to advance. The casualties were mounting and mounting, and we hadn’t even taken the first bloody staircase yet! Good news though, Garrakson and Torris were alive as well as Arlathan and the Mimic.
I was torn a bit about the latter’s survival; as much as it deserved death it getting killed by the enemy would prevent me the pleasure of personally ending its worthless existence. Well, its existence was far from worthless I’d say It was far more useful than I’ll ever be in fact.
Not just that but Brutis’ force still hadn’t broken through his resistance, and the casualties for them were staggering. The Olinthre-thing had sent a detachment back to aide them. Hopefully, they can catch the enemy from behind, but they’d be ready for such a tactic if they had any kind of communication.
Those last eight words were each dripping with sarcasm, by the way.
I sighed, then hissed through in pain as the merc made another fumble and he mumbled an apology. The merc had said he was once a corpsman for the Dalvian 5th and even for a corpsman his medical skills were terrible.
Better than mine, of course, but still bad.
The first Assassin to die was the one Darrance fought, the one I suspected I’d injured with my kick. She’d been slowing for a while now, and it was evident right from the start his skill exceeded hers, not by a large margin, but enough that even if she weren’t injured Darrance’s victory would’ve been assured.
Much to my heartache, he gave her a very undignified end. His power scimitar cut cleanly through her slender torso as well as her arms. Her body...parts flew for a good few metres before finally slopping onto the marble floor.
Darrance didn’t even spare the poor assassin a glance before he moved on to help Castella, but she never needed it. Darrance was midway there when Castella cut off one of the assassin’s hands, and as she reeled back, crying out in agony, Castella stabbed her through the heart.
Castella tore out her blade, and as the assassin fell flat on her face, she turned to face the approaching Darrance.
“I’m fine, I’ve got it,” she said as she deactivated her blades and sheathed them.
Darrance slid to a stop and grinned, “as I could see. They were the best I’ve seen in a long time, quite the challenge.” He said this as he tapped the dying assassin with the tip of his boot. “I am genuinely surprised the apprentice survived as long against them as he did.”
“That is because you constantly underestimate him, and I suspect them of the infamous and elite Moritat Reapers,” said Castella. “I am not surprised at their presence; we are dealing with the Inquisition here.”
“Done,” said the merc and he stepped away. “Excuse me; I’ve gotta rejoin my squad.”
I nodded my thanks and carefully began to slip my bodyglove back onto my torso, hissing and growling at the pain it caused me.
“Oh harden up, apprentice,” said Darrance as he and Castella approached.
My attention snapped at him, my jaw clenched, but the anger quickly abated as I saw his grin. The bastard was baiting me.
“You did well, Attelus,” said Castella, “to hold them off for so long.”
I grinned and shrugged and instantly regretted it, “well after dealing with near invincible daemons, those two were pretty low on the food chain.”
“They came this close to killing you, apprentice,” pointed out Darrance as he raised his hand, his finger and thumb held barely a millimetre apart.
Again I shrugged and again regretted it.
“Details,” I said while starting to slip my now very damaged flak jacket on then swallowed a couple of painkiller capsules medicae Harsin had given me many hours ago. I’d been trying to avoid taking them; they clouded the mind. I wanted to keep a clear head, but frig I hurt like hell, hurt all over.
Castella smiled and shook her head, “how fares the advance?” she asked.
“Bad,” I answered bluntly, “very frigging bad,” and reported what I’d heard.
“That is bad,” said Darrance. “What do you propose we do?”
I raised an eyebrow, surprised he’d even deign to ask me.
“I don’t know, help in any way we can, I guess,” I said. “Don’t know how much we can help, though. It’s frigging hell on that staircase.”
“The enemy will bleed us dry at this rate!” Darrance snarled.
I said nothing, just watched as a squad of mercs ran by, hauling a heavy stubber implacement. One was a woman who had her visor up, and she wasn’t bad looking at all. She caught me looking and gave me a smile which made me turn away, fast.
Castella grinned and shook her head, “we could try something, something as risky as shit.”
“What?” demanded Darrance gruffly.
She glanced at him and pulled out a grappling gun from a larger pouch on her belt. “We could try the outside route.”
I frowned and shared a glance with Darrance.
“You’re right,” said Darrance. “It is as risky as shit. But I would also call that an understatement.”
“Do you have any better ideas Mr all high and mighty?” said Castella but with good humour.
Darrance grimaced, folded his arms and looked away.
“How many stories will we be able to ascend?” I asked.
“Four, maybe five,” said Castella.
Then an idea hit me, “no, I’ve got something better,” I said.
Both Castella and Darrance gave me confused looks.
I grinned and pulled out the schemata data slate, “the elevator shafts.”
With four slashes of my sword, I took out the double doors and carefully looked up the shaft. Finding it eerily empty and devoid of any sound besides the creaking of cables
According to the schemata, none of the elevators on the ground floor ascended straight to the tenth; the highest was the ninth. The only one situated on the fourth floor had access where you could either take the stairs or another elevator from there. In normal times it may’ve been impractical but during a siege like this, a bloody good idea.
The right elevator was stopped about six stories up and left, further up, although I couldn’t see it from this angle.
I hissed through clenched teeth and pulled my head back. Perhaps on second thought, this wasn’t a good idea. If Edracian could see the future, surely he’d expect us to try this and even if he couldn’t.
I turned to Castella and Darrance. “I actually don’t know about this,” I said.
Darrance smiled and furrowed his brow in bemusement, “really? You suspect a trap, I assume? When has that stopped you in this yet?”
“Well, what do you propose we do once we climb up there?” I said. “Wipeout every single enemy merc from the ninth floor downward? We’re good, but not that good.”
“No,” said Castella. “We only need to climb to the fourth floor, then fight our way to the elevator leading to the tenth and climb up from there, straight to Edracian himself.”
“Assuming he’s even on the tenth in the first place! And doing that will surely alert them of our plan, and then we’d have guns up the top shooting down on us as we climbed,” I said if they didn’t know this already.
Castella’s mouth twitched, “well after you put it that way.”
We heard the many and heavy footfalls approaching us from far down the corridor and with weapons raised we turned.
Emerging from around a corner about twenty metres away was Brutis Bones, still in his power armour which was more beaten and battered than before. Wesley and Hayden were on his flanks and following were dozens of damaged, weary-looking Hammers.
“Ah!” said Brutis, smiling, though it held no warmth. “You three sulking in the shadows, hiding away from the front line. I can’t honestly say I’m surprised.”
I smiled back and shook my head.
“Good to see you finally fought your way here,” I said, wanting to add, ‘I was worried we’d all die of old age before you finally managed it,’ but wisely didn’t.
But Brutis’ smile turned genuine instantly seeing my jab, “and thus we thank the Emperor for the blessing of juvenant treatments. What are you doing?”
“We think we can ascend the elevator shaft to gain access to the upper floors,” said Darrance. “You do know of the situation, I assume?”
Brutis nodded, approached us and gazed up the shaft, “it’s a plan, I suppose,” he said, “I could lend a few of mine to come with you. I wouldn’t risk it myself with my armour. I’ll advance with the main force. Hayden, I’ll assume you’ll go to?”
As impassive as ever, Hayden only nodded and slung his rifle over his shoulder.
“I’d like to go as well,” said Wesley.
Brutis glanced at the Throne Agent, “are you sure, you are in the right condition?”
He gave us a withering glare as he said that.
“Yeah I’m sure, boss,” said Wesley. “Don’t worry about me.”
Brutis pursed his lips and shrugged his huge shoulders, “alright, as you wish! Right! Selg, Verenth! You and your men are gonna climb, everyone else, with me!”
Castella, Darrance and I stepped aside to allow Brutis and his men to pass. I did a quick head count as they did, there were only around sixty or so, I wasn’t sure how much that’d help the primary offence.
Ten were left with us, one I recognised as the tall, skinny tattooed Hammer who’d organised the defence in the Manufactorum earlier.
The Hammer looked down his nose at me, clenched his jaw and said nothing.
“Well!” said Wesley clapping his hands and rubbing them together enthusiastically. “What’s the plan?”
“According to the schemata,” I said. “There’s an elevator on the fourth floor that goes straight up to the tenth. We wish to climb to the fourth floor, fight our way to that elevator, then climb up to the tenth from there.”
Wesley sniggered and shook his head, “insane, insane,” he said. “Give me the schemata.”
I shrugged and handed him the data slate.
He studied it for what seemed an age but must’ve only been a few minutes before shaking his head.
“I’ve got a better idea,” he said. “Anyone here got any tech experience?”
“I do,” said Hayden.
“Well thank the God Emperor,” said Wesley. “We are blessed this day!”
I furrowed my brow, “the many...The many who’ve died this day might say otherwise,” I said sadly.
Wesley’s eyes widened, then he nodded in sympathy, ’maybe so,” he said. “Maybe so.”
“What is this, ‘better idea’ you spoke of?” said Darrance impatiently.
The Throne agent’s cheery demeanour suddenly returned, “ah yes! Sorry! It looks like the controls for the elevator activation is located on the ninth floor, here,” as he said this he held up the data slate and pointed to its location on the schemata, “if we could fight our way to it...”
“We can reactivate them,” I interrupted. “Allowing our forces another avenue to advance.”
Wesley grinned and pointed at me.
“Well, enough chat,” said the skinny Hammer as he racked the slide of his auto pistol. “We’ve got one hell of a frigging climb. Let’s get this done with.”
The corner of my mouth twitched, we were lucky it was on the ninth and not the tenth floor. Which just seemed strange to me.
I just wished Karmen wasn’t busy or else she may’ve been able to scout in her incorporeal form.
Wesley clenched his false teeth and tossed me the data slate, which I caught neatly, “not yet, Verenth,” he said. “It could easily be trapped, I suggest…”
“I’ll do it,” said Hayden as he pulled out a grappling hook gun from a holster on his hip. “I’ll go first, check for traps.”
“But you’re the tech expert,” said Wesley. “If you die…”
“You can get another,” interrupted Hayden, “and I’d hardly call myself an ‘expert,’ most of what I know is self-taught. I’m no Adeptus Mechanicus priest. But who better to send as I may be able to disarm whatever I find.”
Wesley shrugged, “yeah, okay, can’t argue with that logic.”
Hayden approached the elevator door and said over his shoulder, “that’s because logic, true logic cannot be argued with.”
“True,” I said, “good luck, Hayden.”
Hayden gave a rare grin, “I bet you’re glad that, for once, it’s not all up to you, Attelus,” he said. “And keep the luck, I’m sure you’ll need it more than me. I may need a second pair of hands; I might need your help.”
My eyes widened, and I pointed to myself, “what, why me?”
He shrugged, “because I might need your unique perspective.”
I frowned and furrowed my brow in bemusement.
“Yes, Emperor be with you,” said Wesley. “and please make haste, every second wasted, more die.”
Hayden nodded then shot his grappling hook, tested it with a tug and said, “I’ll be on channel fifty-six, there I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Oh, and if I were you, I’d keep far away from the elevator shaft, you know, just in case.”
He didn’t wait for a reply before he jumped, caught the cord and began climbing.
I waited and watched Hayden ascend for a few seconds; he made it look easy, he paused about ten metres up and waved me to follow.
With yet another sigh I leapt, and caught the cord which was no mean feat when it was so close to the wall and with my feet stopped myself from smashing against the surface. There was a slight shock of pain up my legs which made me grunt.
My teeth clenched, hand over hand I climbed after Hayden, I was light, no more than sixty kilograms, so it didn’t take much effort on my arms, but I wasn’t as seasoned a climber as Hayden so struggled to keep pace. I wasn’t that afraid of heights but knew the danger so struggled to keep my attention from dropping down.
After what my wrist chron claimed to be just over seven minutes we managed to reach the underside of the first elevator. Hayden had stopped and stood, back against the wall on a wider ledge; he’d shot the hook into. Once I’d reached it, he helped me up, and with one swift tug, tore out the hook then shot it further up the shaft, attaching it into the ceiling, this time straight upward.
He tested with another tug and said, “be careful Attelus, do not even slightly touch the elevator it might be rigged to go off at the slightest touch.”
I frowned and looked pointedly at the small space between the wall and the elevator; it mustn’t have been barely a metre wide. Easier said than done.
It was Hayden’s turn to sigh, and he rolled his eyes, “Attelus, you’re as skinny as a pole,” he hissed, “if anyone can get through there, it’s you. Have some damned confidence for once.”
I started, “Uhh yeah, sorry,” I stammered. “I’m sorry.”
He clenched his teeth, starkly white in the dark, “don’t apologise. You don’t need to apologise. Alright, I’ll go first. There’s another ledge just over the elevator, we’ll check it from there.”
I raised an eyebrow, “how?”
Hayden grinned, pulled out another hook shot, then unclasped a larger pouch on his belt and took out a small safety harness.
“I’m a sniper,” he said unnecessarily. “Getting up on high is all part of my job.”
I sniggered and shook my head as Hayden began to climb again, now he used only his arms to pull himself up, keeping his feet strictly together the entire time.
Despite his size and weight he stayed as still as a stone, yet he climbed quickly, making the approximate two metres within only a few seconds, and he did it without making a single sound.
Gracefully, he slipped onto the ledge then without a hint of lost breath said, “see? If I can do it, I’m sure you can too.”
I nodded, still not exactly enthused but grabbed the rope anyway and started hauling myself up in a similar way to Hayden, except I kept the cable between my feet and my body straight to prevent the line from moving and only used my arms. It caused me more resistance, but I was confident I had the strength. With each pull, pain flared from the wound in my side, and I found myself wishing the damn Farseer would work her magic and heal me already.
Because of this, my climb wasn’t quite as quick or quiet as Hayden’s, but I was just as still. I barely touched the wall let alone the elevator, and again Hayden helped me onto the ledge.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” he said. “I don’t think you needed to keep your feet together on the rope like that though, but I am impressed you have the upper body strength to manage that. Even someone of your lightweight would’ve found that hard. Keep it up.”
All I could manage was a nod, that climb tired me much more than I thought it would.
Hayden smiled and shook his head then pointed to the cord holding the elevator up, “looks like that Wesley fellow was correct, see there? That thing taped to the cord only a few inches up from the elevator? That’s a bomb, looks like a small, low yield tube charge. Strong enough to blow the rope and nothing else. There’s a cord running down from it, going down the other side of the elevator. It’s tied to the det tape, looks like it’s connected to the rope running under the elevator, so if anyone grabs onto that, the extra weight will cause this cord to pull down, so pull off the det tape. I’m guessing...and it’s an educated guess, kid. This elevator and maybe the other one is filled with explosives which are rigged to blow if it hits the ground floor. Simple but effective and I’d bet, there’s enough high yield explosives in there to take out the entire bottom floor.”
I gaped, “but wouldn’t that collapse the building?”
Hayden shook his head, “I doubt it, this place is built to take such a blast, most of the walls would get destroyed, sure. But the important ones, the retaining walls would stay intact or at least I would hope so. Depends on what type of explosive they’d used.”
“So can use the elevator? Even after we’ve disarmed the tube charge?”
“Depends on the sensitivity of whatever pressure plate they’re using in the elevator,” said Hayden. “But to be safe, I’ll need to get inside there and disarm it there.”
I raised an eyebrow, “and what about the other one?”
He shook his head, “once we get to the ninth floor I can program it that only this elevator will run. I barely have the time to check and disarm this one, let alone both.”
With that Hayden then slipped on his safety harness, raised his second hook shot and fired it into the ceiling. He tested it then slid it through the harness clip.
“I need you to hold me by the ankles, keep me steady while I disarm it,” said Hayden.
“Well, that won’t be awkward at all,” I said and looked pointedly down the shaft. “And not at all dangerous for me.”
Hayden didn’t deign to respond. Slowly, carefully he swung into the empty air then with agility belying his size, tilted forward and I quickly caught his ankles before he could tilt back.
“Alright! Attelus, lift me further forward!” Hayden growled as he pulled a pair of clippers from his pouch.
“Yeah!” I said. “This isn’t at awkward at all! Lucky it’s you and not Garrakson!”
“Sorry, nevermind!” I said quickly as I did as told. “Just being an arse.”
“Alright! Further! Further! There! Stop! Perfect!”
Then without hesitation, he reached out and cut the cord tied to the det tape.
“Got it!” he yelled. “Now let me go I can handle it from here!”
I let go, and he abruptly swung himself back onto the ledge.
“So, what now?” I asked. “How the hell are you gonna get inside the elevator?”
Hayden’s usual grim demeanour disappeared as he glared at me, then he unclipped his harness and attached it to the other rope.
“Wait here and cover me,” he said then quickly began to climb.
It only took him a few minutes to make it to the top as I watched with my auto gun raised and with bated breath.
Once there he unattached the other rope, then swung further left, over where the elevator lid was and reattached it. He then went back and forth a few times, building momentum. He was on his third when I realised what he was doing.
“And people call me insane,” I breathed as Hayden unattached his harness and lunged, catching the second rope, then clipped the harness using only one hand while holding on with the other.
To say it was an impressive feat would’ve been quite the understatement.
He zip-lined down, stopping just over the elevator.
“Kid, you think you can get to the other side?” he said as he grabbed the tied up end of the rope and untied the extra bit of rope holding it. “You can try to sidle along the ledge…”
Hayden never finished his sentence as I suddenly jumped, easily making the good three-metre space and neatly landed on the ledge on the other side.
“Yes, yes I think I can,” I said.
For a brief moment Hayden’s eyes were wide with surprise then it was gone as quickly as it came.
“Maybe you should be doing this,” he said.
I shrugged, “unlike you, I don’t know everything, Mr jack of all trades. My father neglected to teach me much about explosives.”
Hayden sniggered, “well when you’re in the game as long as me. You pick up on a few things. You’re lucky, me unlike you, Darrance and Castella I never had an assassin master teaching me how to do everything.”
“But you were in the Arbites, right?” I said. ’Surely they’d have taught you these skills there?”
Hayden shook his head then tossed me the rope slack which I caught with both hands, “no, on my world our squads were very specialised. I was in the sniper division, so I was only trained in skills deemed necessary to sniper work, all this other stuff was self-taught over the years after I left the precinct. You, Darrance and Castella are also kind of specialised, though. In combat anyway, you’re close combatants, true swordsmen and a true swordswoman. I know I can never be a match for any of you in swordwork or even in hand to hand, despite my size. But I have accepted that.”
He twisted on the rope so I could grab his legs again and he tilted forward, and without hesitation, I grabbed his ankle and kept him steady as he studied over the elevator hatch with a torch in his teeth.
“No sign of any wiring running from the hatch,” he said. “I’m betting that if I try to lift this thing, it’s tied to a cord and will set off the explosives inside.”
I hissed through clenched teeth and looked up, “you think they’ve detected us yet?” I asked.
“No,” he said with his trademark sternness. “Barring the obviousness of them not already trying to kill us. We’ve got syn-skin body gloves on, so our heat signatures are pretty much undetectable on auspex or any similar device, and if the shaft were alarmed I would’ve noticed, I assure you.”
I furrowed my brow and frowned, “but our allies won’t be as undetectable when they climb up after us.”
“True,” said Hayden as he opened another pouch and carefully pulled out a Las cutter. “But we’ll worry about that when we come to that. Don’t look directly at the cutter. Bad for the eyes.”
I nodded, although Hayden couldn’t see it as he activated his Las cutter then began to cut through the hatch methodically.
Without any goggles.
I could barely see from the sparks and feel the heat from here, but Hayden was fine, despite it all going on right in his face. Was Hayden augmented? That was the only explanation I could contend. I had no idea, just how augmented was he? His eyes had to be if he was able to stare into that directly.
They must’ve been expensive as all hell because he looked so normal.
Then I realised something that almost made me let him go, what was stopping the enemy from detecting this?
As if on cue a loud noise further up the shaft, caused me to look up to see the eighth-floor doors were being pried open.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” I snarled. “Hayden they know we’re here! I’m gonna have to let you go!”
“Yeah! Okay! Just cover me! And try not to hit the damn rope!”
“I’ll try!” I snapped as I unslung my auto gun and took cover behind one of the steel pillars on the corner of the shaft.
“And kid!” Hayden said, still as calm as calm. “Just try to pin them, okay? If you kill or injure any and they fall down the shaft and onto the elevator…”
He let the rest hang.
I smiled despite the situation, both at the unintended pun and that he expected me to kill any in the first place.
I could hear more grunting and grinding as the door slowly opened.
After flicking my gun onto; “full auto,” I braced myself for the inevitable deafening racket in the confined space then opened fire, spraying in bursts in the general direction of the door. The rounds panged off the metal walls and caused whoever was prying the door open to stop abruptly.
My smile turned into a grin, perhaps it’ll be easier than I thought but it only took a second for them to start prying the door open again.
I clenched my teeth and showered more shots up there, but that didn’t seem to dissuade them as the door kept opening and opening.
“Hayden! Hurry!” I snapped while reloading. “I’ve only got one clip left after this one!”
“I’m going as fast as I can,” said Hayden, still enviously calm. “This is delicate work, kid.”
Now the door was almost entirely open; I could see the bastards were using an extra long crowbar, allowing them to stay in cover as they pried it open. Smart friggers. My wild shooting was all that kept them popping out to take pot shots.
Finally, the doors fully opened and immediately one edged around the left corner and opened fire, causing me to slip into cover, but quickly I spun on to the other side, and my return hail forced him back. Right tilted out but was pushed back by another burst of mine, but I wasn’t quick enough to stop left from shooting my way.
“Frig!” I snarled, they were cautious as they didn’t know how many of us were down here but I was sure they knew it was only me now and would throw that caution away soon luckily though, they hadn’t seemed to have noticed Hayden, yet.
I didn’t wait for a lull in their fire, slipping to the right again I opened up with a wide, sweeping burst that caused them both back behind their walls.
“Done!” said Hayden as he tossed away the part he’d cut from the hatch and it landed neatly on the ledge. “And it looks like I was right! There’s a wire connecting the hatch to something!
I flinched, away from more withering fire and reloaded my last clip, “can you cut it?”
“I don’t know! Give me a minute!”
“We don’t have a minute!” I roared. “We don’t even have seconds, hurry it up!”
Hayden didn’t say anything, just set to work.
I clenched my teeth and forced myself to glance around the pillar, seeing much to my relief there were still only two in the doorway. We were very lucky there wasn’t an entire squad up there already, which interested me.
Just as I thought this then came more creaking and grinding through the fire and I looked to see they were starting to pry open the seventh-floor doors.
“Oh frig! Frig! Frig!” I yelled as I blind fired around my pillar, “more coming and I’m pinned down!”
“I can cut it!” said Hayden. “There’s no secondary…”
“Enough with the exposition!” I screamed, leaning out despite the hail of bullets and forced the mercs into cover with another burst. “And just! Frigging! Do! It! I swear in the last five minutes you’ve talked more than you have in the last five years!”
So preoccupied with the firefight I barely saw Hayden reach in and cut the cord, then slide off the hatch.
Hayden yelled something at me, but I couldn’t hear him over the din.
“What?” I said while shooting wildly at the seventh-floor door.
“I need some slack,” said Hayden, “and a hand!”
“Oh for frig’s sake!”
“I need to get through this hatch, and I need to descend through it vertically!”
“You’re a professional!” I snapped. “Do it your damn self!”
“Okay,” he growled, “but if I fall and cause everything to explode and we all die It’s on your head, kid.”
“It’s alright!” I said. “I can live with that!”
I think Hayden laughed then, wasn’t sure and even now, I’m still not.
“Kid! Switch on your microbead! Channel fifty-six And give me some cover fire.”
“Already on it!” I yelled and fired a brief burst up the shaft before being forced back.
In spite of all the shots exploding around, Hayden leaned into a vertical position and carefully zip-lined into the elevator.
I barely took notice as I slipped back into cover and quickly tuned my vox link.
“Kid? You there?” asked Hayden’s voice over the link.
“Yeah!” I yelled wincing as more rounds rained on my pillar.
“Well, kid,” said Hayden. “Looks like I’m wrong, they did intend to blow the entire building. There’s enough explosive in here to level an entire frigging block. A liquid explosive named Thisleain, rare, expensive, potent stuff. There’s a gotta be half a ton here, shit. Insane.”
“Can you disarm it?” I demanded as I blind fired back another salvo and glanced out to see the seventh-floor door was about halfway open.
“Yeah, think so, just gotta find the pressure plate,” said Hayden.
“For frig’s sake!” I snapped. “How in hell can you keep so frigging calm?”
“Don’t know,” he said. “Always been this way.”
“Well hurry the hell up!”
Hayden didn’t reply.
I snarled in frustration and leaned out to shoot once more; I was in mid barrage when my gun clicked dry.
“Shit!” I roared. “I’m outta ammo!”
Then a thought hit me; surely they’d have noticed Hayden and his cord by now, why hadn’t they cut it or shot it, unless the mercs knew…
“Interesting,” I muttered under my breath. How would they know that? Sorry, more importantly, why would they know that?
“I’ve found it,” said Hayden. “I’ve found the pressure plate.”
“Attelus, Hayden,” said another voice over the vox, it was Castella. “We’re at the shaft; we’re heading up!”
“What?” I cried. “The bomb hasn’t been diffused yet!”
“We know! We’ll be careful! But you’re out of ammo and once the bombs been diffused...”
She let it hang, and I knew exactly what she meant, we were only alive because of the bomb, once that was out of the picture, once Hayden pulled himself out of there...
“Ahh, I see,” said Hayden, knocking me from my reverie. “Good thing we took all the precautions, this has to be one of the most sensitive plates I’ve ever seen. This place would’ve blown if the elevator moved even slightly. I’d say it’d only take seventy to eighty kilos of pressure from outside the elevator. No more than a few grams inside!”
“Okay I’m shooting the hook shot!” said Castella. “We’ll be up there in a few minutes!”
I snarled a curse, dropped my auto gun and drew my pistol, for all the good it’d do me.
“We don’t have that long!” I roared.
“Attelus! You need to calm down!” said Castella. “Shouting and screaming at me isn’t going to help you!”
I sighed, then fired a flurry and was about to apologise when another thought hit me.
“Hayden!” I yelled into the vox. “Once you disarm the bomb do not and I mean; do not climb out of there!”
“Why? No, wait I understand,” he said. “Good thinking, kid. I’ve found the connection from the pressure plate to the explosive. Gotta say it’s masterfully crafted. Simple to make but complex to disarm, give me a minute.”
I groaned, then the shooting suddenly grew in intensity, making me flinch and cover my ears. I didn’t need to look to know the seventh-floor doors to realise they’d finally fully opened.
Clenching my teeth, I pulled out my mirror and raised it; seeing only four more were on the seventh floor, two kneeling, two standing. Luck seemed to be on my side for once that there wasn’t more.
“Damn it! Now I’m well and truly pinned! Hurry it Castella!” I cried. “There’s six now! Two on the eighth, four on the seventh!”
“We’re going as fast as we can!” she snapped back.
“Attelus, there’s more than one connection, ten in fact,” said Hayden. “I have to trace each one to their source to see which are fake and which aren’t. It’s going to take some time.”
I sighed and pressed my face into my hand. This was getting better and better.
I flinched in fright as a bright beam of light suddenly erupted up the shaft, engulfing one of the mercs on the seventh floor, instantly vaporising him from the waist upward and threw his corpse back.
The remaining mercs screamed out scared curses and very quickly got into cover.
“Whoa!” I yelled. “Nice shot!”
Castella’s laughter filtered down the link, “unlike you, I don’t neglect my time at the shooting range!”
“Ha! Ha! Frigging ha!” I said. “Is it joke at Attelus’ expense day because he’s only an above average shot, is it? Anyway if you’re such a good shot why didn’t you shoot that damn assassin on my back, back then?”
“I couldn’t risk hitting my dear, dear friend Attelus and lose the opportunity to take part in a joke at his expense day, could I?” she said. “Besides, I wanted to take the opportunity to test my skill against a bona fide death cult assassin.”
Another beam of plasma suddenly shot up the shaft, forcing the mercs back again.
“Attelus! I’ve only got a few shots left! Help me here!”
“Got you!” I yelled and tilted out, waiting for the mercs to appear. One did within a second or so, and he was forced back by my roughly shot rounds.
“You’re frigging brave bastards, aren’t you!” I shouted as I fired to pin one of the remaining mercs on the seventh floor.
“I’ve located all the wire sources,” said Hayden, “all of them aren’t fake. From where I can reach, they’re very close together only about an inch, and I see now if I even disturb one slightly while cutting another it’ll set this whole thing off. Ingenious, bloody ingenious.”
“Well, shit!” I snarled while reloading. “And cutting them won’t set it off?”
“No! No!” corrected Hayden, sounding almost bemused. “The cords need to be taut; once they lose their tautness, they’re harmless. I can cut them without worry, just as long as I don’t knock them in the process!”
“Well! Stop telling and start doing!” I yelled, flinching as another plasma beam evaporated the torso of a second merc, whose severed head flew into the shaft and began spinning through the air, falling straight toward the elevator.
Instinct took me over, with a cry and in the blink of an eye, I’d holstered my pistol, slipped out of cover and jumped, reaching out to catch it.
And I did, almost, my heart sank as I only succeeded in brushing it with the tips of my fingers, which was enough to knock it off course, sending it clanging hard against the top of the elevator. Bouncing away and down the side of the shaft. It’d hit less than an inch from going into the open hatch if I hadn’t knocked it off course...
“Heads up!” I cried a millisecond before I smashed against the wall, hard enough to knock the wind out of me and to send me bouncing back into free fall! Straight toward the top of the elevator!
I screamed out and with desperate hands clutched out for the cord. Which I missed once, twice, the third time was the charm as my left hand finally managed it, but it wasn’t enough as I kept on falling and I screamed in pain as the cord burnt quickly through my glove, then into my hand, but I didn’t dare let go.
Even with my heart in my throat and panic pain overtaking me, my right still snapped out and successfully grabbed the cord. Almost immediately I started to slow, and I clenched my teeth to fight the pain. Finally, after what felt like forever I stopped and gasped for breath I abruptly wrapped my arms and legs around the cord, pulling myself up to be vertical instead of horizontal then looked down. What I saw made my heart skip at least ten beats, I’d somehow managed to stop less than a few centimetres from hitting the elevator.
Eyes wide and fighting for a breath I looked up, the ledge I’d fallen off mustn’t have been more than a metre and a half up. How I’d managed to stop like that in what was sure to be less than a few seconds was beyond me.
“Attelus! Attelus!” screamed Castella down the line. “Are you alright? Attelus!”
“Yeah! I’m fine! I managed. “Just uhh hanging out!”
“What the hell was it that hit the elevator a second ago?” demanded Hayden before I could make a response. “Gave me one hell of a fright!”
“Ahead,” I gasped. “A severed head! From one of the mercs, Castella had hit with her pistol! Would’ve went straight through the damned hatch if I hadn’t hit it off course! Castella! Do me a favour and please don’t shoot anymore, before Hayden’s done! Please!”
“Good thing it didn’t! said, Hayden. “The pressure plate is right under there!”
I rolled my eyes, I’d already guessed as much, and as quickly as I could, I drew my pistol. Hissing at the pain and fired wildly back up the shaft. They wouldn’t dare shoot at me hanging here, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
“Castella! Please, hurry!”
“Alright!” said Hayden “I’m cutting the first wire, I’m gonna start from the left and work my way to the other side!”
“Make it snappy!” I snarled. “I can’t! I can’t hold on for much longer!”
“Cutting number one…”
The pause mustn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but it felt like forever before Hayden frigging finally announced, “Number one is cut! I repeat number one is cut! Moving onto number two.”
Hyperventilating and shaking from the shock I started to slowly climb the cord, using only my legs as I steadied myself with my forearms. Pistol raised, ready to fire.
“Breath Attelus, you need to calm yourself and breath!” said Castella.
I didn’t reply verbally, only nodded and swallowed.
“Number two is cut! I repeat number two is cut! Moving onto three.”
I screamed as my foot abruptly slipped off the cord, and I dropped forcing me to grab the cable with both hands to stop myself, despite the pain it caused but letting go of my Autopistol in the process.
My breath was bated as I watched it drop as I heard the sharp clang when it hit the elevator then as it bounced and clattered straight toward the hatch, only to stop right at the edge.
“Oh no,” I whimpered with tears in my eyes as it began to tilt to fall. “Oh no, oh no.”
“What was that?” said Hayden. “I was almost in mid-cut when it hit, lucky I didn’t jump and hit another wire.”
“Hayden! You need to look up at the hatch, now!” I roared.
That was all I got to say before the pistol fell.
I screamed, and for all the good it’d have done, covered my ears and buried my face in my arms. But the explosion never came, nothing happened. I waited for a few seconds before finally taking my hands away from my ears and looking down.
“What?” I gasped.
“Kid,” said Hayden. “This is your pistol, isn’t it?”
Hayden sighed, “I caught it, I caught it before it hit the plate. You’re not the only one who’s got quick hands, kid.”
I didn’t reply; I couldn’t reply just gape idiotically then my attention snapped to the left as I caught movement in the corner of my eye.
It was Castella who beamed a grin at me as she climbed Hayden’s rope.
“Good work, Attelus,” she said while pulling her lithe body onto the ledge, then moved to the nearest pillar and knelt behind it, Plasma pistol raised. “Almost getting everyone killed, like that.”
“Hey!” I snapped. “I wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t vaporised that merc and give me a hand, would you?”
Darrance then suddenly climbed into view, “the shooting has stopped,” he stated.
I frowned, grabbed Castella’s outstretched hand then she pulled me onto the ledge and looked up to find Darrance right. The mercs had disappeared altogether, leaving the doors barred openly.
“Where did they go?” said Castella.
“Fell back, maybe?” suggested Darrance as he reached down to help up the skinny Hammer leader from before. “Maybe they want to lure us there so they can shoot us without worrying about dropping our corpses onto the elevator?”
I nodded, it made sense, either that or out of a misguided sense of self-preservation.
“Hayden?” I called. ’Hayden are you there?”
“Yeah, kid, I’ve cut the third wire, now onto the fourth. Bear with me here, okay?”
Just after he said that another idea hit me, “I bet they’ve fallen back because they know we’re getting reinforcements and Hayden! Check if they’ve got anything to detect if the bomb is disarmed!”
“I...” he paused. “Yes, of course, why hadn’t I thought of that.”
I clenched my teeth and looked up at the other elevator on the ninth floor.
“What’s the bet,” I said, “that elevator has no explosives in it. That this one is the only one.”
“That’s absurd!” spat the skinny Hammer. “Why in the Emperor’s name would they only trap one elevator?”
Because Edracian, with his far sight, foresaw this was the one we’d check first, I thought. Because he didn’t want this to seem too easy.
But I only shrugged, deciding to keep this to myself.
All ten of the Hammers were now on the ledge; weapons raised to cover the doors.
“I think we should ask a more pertinent question,” said Darrance. “Why would he put enough explosives in there to take out an entire block? And it seems to me that those mercs know about this or else they wouldn’t have exercised such caution while pinning down the Apprentice, here.”
“Or not bothering to cut Hayden’s rope,” said Castella. “They must know, how do they know? Surely he could’ve kept this a secret.”
“I think the better question is,” gasped Wesley as he was pulled onto the ledge by one of the Hammers. “Is why do they know.”
I shuddered as a cold shiver went through my spine.
“Yeah!” said Hayden. “The kid was right! There’s a vox alarm right next to the tank! I should’ve noticed it before. I can’t reach it from here, so expect to be under fire very soon. Good thinking kid.”
“Thanks, Hayden,” I said.
“This is just getting stranger and stranger,” said Wesley.
“What should we do now?” asked the skinny Hammer. “Just wait here?”
“Hmm,” I said my finger and thumb musing on my thin chin. “I think we should head up.”
“What?” said the skinny Hammer. “That’s ridiculous! What if one of us falls!”
“No,” interrupted Wesley. “I think the kid’s got it right, right now with the bomb down here the enemy will be less likely to try kill us while we climb. We can climb up, secure the elevator controls, then Hayden can follow us once he’s done disarming the bomb.”
“Of course he’ll be under fire,” said Darrance. “A few of us will have to stay and cover him.”
“We can do that,” said another Hammer, the brute had arms as thick as Hams and tattoos covered him almost head to toe.
Wesley nodded, “thank you, Selg.”
I clenched my teeth and closed my eyes, farseer Faleaseen.
There was no response, just silence.
+Yes? What?+ Demanded the Eldar’s echoed, inhuman voice.
I sighed with relief inwardly, can you use your power to heal my hands, I need them now.
The Farseer sighed, +What is it you did now?+
I’m sure you can read my thoughts and find out, I replied. Now, will you? Or won’t you?
+Okay, I will,+ she said. +But remember mon’keigh I cannot do this all the time, even my power has its limits.+
I understand, I thought and slipped my hands into their pockets.
Immediately I felt the burned, torn skin of my palms begin to mould and warp and I had to fight the urge to watch it, with everyone about someone was bound to see it if I did.
It only took around half a minute before the pain was gone and I could flex my fingers properly.
+Thank you, now the wound on my side? Please?+
Do not push it Mon’keigh, she replied. You will have to bear with it; I have to save my strength for now.
Save your strength? For what?
+The future, human, what else?+
“I have cut the fifth wire,” announced Hayden over the vox. “If you’re gonna move you need to do it now.”
“Got you!” said Wesley and waved us to begin. “Go! Go! Go! Attenlus! You first!”
I frowned and furrowed my brow, him constantly getting my name wrong was beginning to get on my nerves.
Wesley met my look with a frown of his own and nodded to my powersword sheathed at my hip pointedly, seemingly mistaking my look for annoyance at having to go first.
I sighed, grabbed the cord and began climbing Castella and Darrance following just after.
To say it was nerve-wracking to climb that rope was quite the understatement, especially when passing the open doors. Expecting in any second the barrel of a gun to suddenly be in my face. The bloody rope wavered and moved caused continuously by the others after me. Not just that but Hayden’s infernal countdown as he cut the wires one after another.
He was on the last when I finally arrived at the ninth floor door. I clenched my teeth, gripped the rope with my left hand and drew my sword with my right, activating it in a blaze of blue.
“Be careful, Apprentice,” said Darrance.
I gave him a withering glare and quickly looked over the door, checking for anything resembling tricks or traps. Using what Hayden had said earlier as a reference.
There was nothing, nothing obvious, anyway. I wanted to be surer, but time was very quickly running out, so I hissed through clenched teeth and sliced through the door.
“Hold on!” I yelled as I twisted and turned on the rope, roughly cutting as quickly and cleanly as I could. Which was hardly quick or clean but I still managed to cut a decent sized hole.
“I have cut the last wire!” announced Hayden over the link. “I repeat I have cut the last wire!”
I growled and swung like Hayden to build my momentum, then threw myself through the still superheated hole.
The gunfire erupted a millisecond after I landed and I darted left, countless munitions ripping into the wall in my wake.
Twelve mercenaries stood in waiting behind a sandbag wall further down the wide, bright, ornate corridor; luckily I’d cut the hole to the left of the rope, so it wasn’t in their line of fire.
The elevators were in a small T shaped end, only about half a metre wider than the corridor allowing me a wall to take cover behind. Most wouldn’t have had the reaction time to make it there on time; I did evidently.
I cursed and reached for my pistol in its holster, but found it empty.
“Frig!” I roared, remembering that Hayden still had it back in the damned elevator.
“How many?” came Castella’s voice over the vox.
“Twelve!” I announced, “about twenty metres down! Behind sandbags”
“Well within range!” she exclaimed.
“No! Wait!” I yelled but a second too late as the beam of plasma pierced through the metal door and spread in an arc across the width of the corridor.
The stench of burnt flesh and screams immediately followed.
Castella suddenly lunged through the opening, plasma pistol in her left hand, one of her power blades in her right and she charged down the corridor and out of sight. Darrance hot on her heels.
I clenched my teeth and shook my head; I really should get me one of those.
My kick sent the merc spiralling, head over heels into the wall which he hit with a crunch, on my left flank Castella bisected another, from groin to skull with a single slash of her sword as Darrance on my right cut one’s torso in two and decapitated a second.
I dashed at another, making ten metres in a blink as he brought his lasgun to bear and impaled his neck to the hilt. I tore out the crackling blade in a horizontal arc which sheared through the skull of another and sidestepped the thrusting bayonet of a third. My low roundhouse kick caught him in the side of the knee, and he screamed in agony as he collapsed. I finished him with a front snap kick which stuck fast into his throat, and he fell, gurgling. Attempting to stem the blood bursting out.
Darrance was suddenly at my side, slicing a merc in two as he attempted to shoot me. I didn’t have time to thank him before I was forced to weave out the way of a burst of automatic fire from a merc, hiding behind a turned over table further into the dining room.
I spun and threw a knife, which stuck fast into the gun’s barrel. I threw a second that finished point first in his throat.
A burst of plasma tore through the place, vaporising two mercs as they burst through the double doors at the other end and I could hear the cries of dismay as those that followed, leapt into cover.
Wesley and the six Hammers ran past us, turning over tables for cover and firing to keep the enemy at bay.
“Which way next?” Wesley yelled.
I didn’t need reference the data slate to know.
“Next left! At the T junction just outside this room!” I announced as I threw myself flat from their counter fire and activated my vox link. “Hayden! How far behind are you?”
“We’re almost on you! Enemy resistance is strong, but we haven’t lost anyone yet!”
The skinny Hammer fired two shots from his stub revolver, both blowing out the skull of a merc as they leaned out to shoot. They were a good thirty metres away; I couldn’t help but be impressed.
“Nice shooting!” I yelled.
The Hammer just sneered at me and shook his head.
I shrugged and said, “fair enough!”
The Hammer’s attention snapped back to me, his brow furrowed in bemusement.
Wesley frowned, “Verenth…” he said warningly
“You killed my brother,” Verenth stated flatly. “Two months ago, you stabbed him through the heart. So yes, it’s more than fair enough.
My heart sank, “I…I’m sorry. How do you know it was me?”
Verenth clenched his teeth, “I saw you do it!” he snarled. “That girl you fought she stabbed me when I tried to fight her, she missed my heart, only just. I stayed conscious just long enough to see it, all of it. You impaled him through the chest then kicked him off your sword.”
“You don’t even remember, do you?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t,” I said. “I’ve killed a lot of people over the past few months, and I’ve killed a lot that way, almost every day. I didn’t think…”
“No!” snarled Verenth. “No! I bet you didn’t think! I bet you never even considered he may’ve had a kid, or a wife or family! I bet to you he was just some random nothing which deserved to die because he was just some nobody, just some criminal! Just some mindless mook you kill by the dozen!”
“Verenth!” shouted Wesley. “Now isn’t the time!”
Verenth tore his attention away from me and emptied his stub revolver at the enemies in the corridor.
“By the Emperor! I wish I could’ve put one of those through your skull!” he roared as he deftly reloaded.
I’d like to have seen you try, I thought but wisely didn’t say.
“Fair enough,” I said instead.
“Wesley!” Darrance snapped. “You and your men need to provide us covering fire again!”
“Apprentice!” Darrance yelled. “Get ready to move! We cannot waste any more time!”
I nodded, wide-eyed and glad that I had a distraction.
Wesley held up his hand, all five fingers raised and dropped them one by one.
Once done the Hammers instantly opened up. Only a second after they’d done me, Darrance and Castella were through the door, in that order. About thirty total were there, backs lodged against the walls.
Castella’s plasma pistol killed the ones at the back, about twelve vaporised instantly.
My powersword sliced through the head of the first, I impaled the second and my throwing knife stuck fast into the visor of a third.
I lunged forward, and my sidekick smashed one against the wall so hard I swore it caused the surface to crack. I ducked the rifle butt of another, then punched him in the face, finishing him with a horizontal slash across his chest. Two came at me as one, charging with their bayonets aimed at my belly. I slid out the way and sliced through the lasrifle of right, then decapitated him with a horizontal cut. Reacting impressively quick, Left attempted to smash in my face with his rifle butt, but like water, I weaved away and cut through his torso.
Beside me, Darrance’s power scimitar cut cleanly through two; then he spun into a hook kick that hit a merc so hard I swore it broke his neck.
Castella pirouetted in between us, making flying over a good three metres to decapitate two mercs as they brought their guns to bear.
Me and Darrance dashed past her. I kicked the raised auto gun of one just as he was about to pull the trigger, causing him to fire uselessly into the ceiling instead of into Castella, I stabbed him through the chest and kicked his limp form into his colleague at his back.
Darrance’s overhead vertical cut sliced a merc straight down the middle; then he opened the chest of another.
Castella’s plasma pistol shot between us and vaporised two more mercs as they emerged around the next corner.
I clenched my teeth, “Castella! Please try to conserve your ammo!” I yelled.
Castella swaggered past us, her smoking plasma pistol held at her side, and I couldn’t help appreciate her arse, and in my peripheral vision, I saw Darrance doing just the same.
She shrugged, “sure,” she said. “Sorry.”
I smiled, shook my head then activated my vox link, and announced, “clear!”
Only a few seconds later Wesley’s men rushed past us and stood to watch the corners of the T junction; two left, two right the rest hugging the walls behind them. Almost like professionals.
Hayden walked in afterwards, his rifle slung over his shoulder, his silenced auto pistol in hand and with Wesley at his side.
“I do not understand why you three aren’t Throne agents, yet,” said Wesley as he mercy killed a merc with a shot in the head. “I’m just bloody glad you’re on my side.”
“For now,” said Darrance with an evil smile which caused Castella to laugh.
Wesley just smiled back and shook his head, “actually I think you’re lucky you are on my side, as I’d have very little doubt you would kill me, the consequences if you did, would be...Not pretty, not pretty at all.”
I swallowed, and how bloody close did I come to killing you? I thought.
Wesley walked through us, “Alright! Let’s move!”