We quickly piled into Arlathan’s command truck.
“Golyat!” Arlathan said. “Get us to Taryst’s, quick smart!”
“Yes sir,” said the driver and very soon we were out of the courtyard and into the streets. The klaxon warbled insistently overhead.
“Roldar, Jelket, you’re ex-guard,” said Helma, after a while. “Either of you ever fought with Space Marines?”
Roldar and Jelket, who sat next to each other, exchanged glances.
“No ma’am,” said Roldar, “and neither did Jelket here, captain. As I’m sure, I would’ve heard about it a thousand times now.”
Jelket nodded in agreement then a second later gave Roldar a glare when he got it, which made me smile despite myself.
Helma rolled her eyes, “either of you ever knows anyone in our ranks who has?”
Again they shared a glance before Jelket said, “no there again, ma’am, sorry. Why are you asking?”
Helma sighed, “Y’know, because they will know about what we’re up against so be able to give us info on it. Seriously? Did your mothers drop you on your heads when you were babies?”
“Uhh no ma’am,” said Jelket. “With respect, ma’am if I’d fallen on my head as a babe, I wouldn’t be tenth at the range and wouldn’t have figured out Taryst was dead before Brutis even told us.”
Helma furrowed her brow, “and how did you figure that out?”
Jelket shrugged and pursed his lips, “just thought about it is all, ma’am.”
Helma furrowed her brow even more and scratched her jaw, “I don’t get, how can you be smart enough to figure that out, but dumb enough not to get why I asked if you’d served with Space Marines?”
Jelket shrugged again, “I don’t know ma’am. That...was pretty obvious.”
“Unless you’re lying about it,” said Helma, suspiciously.
“No, he’s not,” sighed Roldar. “He’s mentioned it a few times over the last few days. We thought he was being paranoid.”
“I sort of have experience with Space Marines,” I said hesitantly.
Helma’s attention suddenly snapped to me, “yeah well, spit it out! Anything’s better than nothing, kid. Wait! Soon just from the propaganda booklets? Is it?”
“No,” I said with a frown and a furrowed brow, why would I mention it if it was? I thought.
“That’s alright, then,” said Helma. “Just making sure, found out the hard way a long time ago that stuff was complete Grox shit. So tell me what you know.”
I nodded, “when I was a teenager my world was invaded by the forces of chaos. I…”
I paused, “I...I survived.”
“Yeah we can see that,” said Roldar grinning, which elicited a withering glare from me, causing his eyes to widen then look away.
Helma frowned and with watery eyes, glared at Roldar too, “I understand, Attelus, please. Continue.”
“I was far from the front lines when they arrived,” I said, “living In a refugee camp, so I never got to see them first hand. The Space Marines, the Dark Angels but saw the fire trails in the sky of their drop pods. From what I’d heard, the war between the Imperial forces and the Chaos invaders was until then, a stalemate. But once the Space Marines arrived, it was only a few weeks before the enemy ground forces were wiped out to a man, along with most of their invasion fleet.”
Helma sighed and scratched her head, “sounds about right, an entire planetary invasion force, completely devastated in weeks. What chance do we have?”
I opened my mouth to reply but stopped and shook my head instead, unable to think of anything to say.
Staying here was sure-fire suicide, I wasn’t worried about me, we needed to escape, and quickly a plan began to form in my mind.
We sat in stoic silence as the van drove through the hive, the bleating claxons causing all traffic in our way to veer clear.
I leaned forward in my restraint belt and watched our advance through the front window as the driver skillfully manoeuvred through the convoluted labyrinthine streets. We were only about forty-five kilometres or so from Taryst’s tower, but by my calculations, it was going to take good three-quarters of an hour or more to get there, even at such speed and the traffic getting out of our way. Time wasn’t on our side, much to my teeth grinding frustration.
We turned yet another corner, onto a wide main thoroughfare, it was thick with traffic which struggled to make room for us, forcing the driver to weave through much of it.
Then I saw something that made me narrow my eyes, as the traffic cleared I saw a figure, a good kilometre down the street just standing nonchalantly in the middle of it.
Then he pulled out a grenade launcher.
“Shit!” I yelled. “Turn! Turn!”
But the driver couldn’t, the traffic on our sides effectively locking us in a tight corridor.
“What?” demanded Helma. “What’s going on?”
“Brace yourselves!” Yelled the driver. “And hold the frig on!”
As I thought he was rather redundant, I watched the figure raise his grenade launcher and saw the puff of smoke as he fired just before I pulled myself back.
I should’ve known this would happen, that Etuarq would have an ace up his sleeve.
The explosion took out the front wheels, throwing the van violently onto its back wheels tipping us into the air a good thirty degrees. We were abruptly rocked sidewards in our restraints, and I heard sharp screams.
After what seemed like forever, the van finally smashed back forward, the impact sending waves of agony up my spine, which caused it to bounce back up again but only for a split second as the front landed and screeched; I as it slid for a few metres. The rear suddenly slipped outward; then the van toppled onto its left side, I was sitting on the right so my feet were all of a sudden hanging in the air and my long hair hung forward. The horrific impact jarred me head to toe. I yelled out, forced to writhe and reel with the constant bumping and bashing, but could hardly hear myself over the constant screeching of the bodywork it’s over the road.
I don’t know how long it went on or how far we slid but it felt like a frigging lifetime before it bashed hard against what must’ve been another vehicle. Causing more cries and me more blinding pain. It bounced and slid another metre more before stopping.
Winded, gasping for air I looked around, the impact had taken out the interior lights, leaving everything endowed in darkness. I could hear pained groaning and moaning, and I hurt all over like all hell, my limbs, neck, and head were the worst, I quickly found I could move, that nothing was broken.
“Everyone alright?” I called, the only replies I got were more moans and the creaking of the damaged bodywork.
“Okay, fair enough,” I said as I undid my restraint and dropped onto the “floor” with as much grace I could muster under the circumstance which wasn’t much, but more than most.
With a shaking hand, I activated my Microbead but found only static.
“Frig!” I snarled.
Then I heard from outside the running of heavy boots toward the back, and I quickly counted about a dozen pairs.
I would’ve told everyone to get down or find cover but knew it’d be pointless, instead, I just drew my pistol and limped toward the back door, flicking off the safety.
“What the hell’s going on?” groaned Helma as I passed her.
“It’s an ambush, a frigging ambush,” I whispered. “Keep quiet.”
She opened her mouth to argue but stopped as we heard the familiar hissing of a las-cutter and saw the metal around the lock begin to turn orange and bulge in a circular motion.
I had a few options here, stand right in the open and gun down anyone trying to get in, that’s if they attempted that but my gut said they’d try to throw in a grenade through the gap first, so I slid beside the door and pushed my shoulder against the wall. My heart in my throat as I tried to ignore my aching limbs and hoping to hell I was right.
Eventually, the lascutter did its job, and with a clang, the chunk was kicked in.
A second later, the grenade flew through, and my body reacted on its own, my hand snapped out, caught it and with a flick of a wrist, I tossed it outside.
I allowed myself a smile as I heard the ambushers cries of dismay and the explosion, then the agonised screams afterwards.
I spun into a sidekick which smashed open the door and in a microsecond I’d taken in my surroundings, the swirling smoke from the explosive, the six dead and stunned figures laying on the rockcrete. Figures wearing the familiar armour and uniform of the Adeptus Arbites, two others in view were still coherent, one was on his back, in the midst of raising his shotgun. The other on his feet, just about to pull the trigger of his. My autopistol spat twice; the manstopper rounds blew out the back of the standing Arbite’s skull, then the prone one’s chest. Without hesitation I jumped outside, twisting in mid-air and fired wildly to pin the four remaining arbites on the van’s sides. My gambit worked, they didn’t expect such a reckless move and pulled back. I landed a good five meters away and darted behind the first vehicle on my right, cutting down the pair there with a withering hail of fire as they were busy falling back.
The last two peered around the van’s corner, the first crouched, the second standing and fired their shotguns my way, forcing me to duck behind the vehicle with a curse and as I did, I caught a glimpse of many more men in arbites uniforms emerging from the pulled over vehicles ahead, shotguns raising.
I couldn’t help but smile in admiration at such brilliantly planned and executed ambush and checked over my shoulder to see if there were more converging on our back and there was, a good twenty or so. It must’ve been fully half of the Arbitrator force in the entire hive taking part in this, assuming they were Arbites at all.
My vehicle was being torn apart, I knew it wouldn’t last much longer, so reloaded and darted across the highway, shooting at the two arbites behind the van on the way. I didn’t glimpse the figure sprinting straight at me until it was almost too late and instinct made me throw myself to the ground, sensing, not seeing the sword slash which almost killed me.
In a split second, I was on my feet and face to face with a mask, a mask similar to those worn by the assassins of the Vindicare temple. Faster than thought the man slashed, forcing me to lean back from its path. Then I saw the two Arbites were emerging from the corner of the crashed van.
“No!” I cried and kicked at my assailant while trying to bring my pistol to bear. But like liquid, the man weaved out the way and went to dissect me from crotch to head with an upward cut. I threw myself aside and managed one shot at the Arbites before he was on me again, cutting at my arm. I pulled back my aim and attempted to shoot him through the face, but he’d already moved onto my left flank. My peripheral vision saw him trying to stab at my ribs, and I jumped out of its path. Twisting to fire a flurry at the Arbites, just as the first was stepping to look inside. My desperate shots forced him to hesitate and flinch, none hit directly, but one lucky round ricocheted off the bodywork and into his foot.
The Arbite screamed and fell.
The Masked man threw a low, knee breaking roundhouse kick that I back stepped and he followed with a diagonal slash at my head that I darted aside of.
Instantly, I recognised that style; I would’ve been shocked if I didn’t know he was a part of this already.
“Hi, dad,” I said and fired at him, forcing him to dart away then turned and cut down the remaining Arbite with a flurry of shots. “Can’t, in all honesty, say I’ve missed you.”
My pistol clicked dry; I dropped it, spun and drew my sword just in time to smash aside Serghar’s thrust. He stabbed at my skull, which I weaved under and countered with a downward diagonal cut he parried. We wheeled back and activated our sword’s power fields almost at once.
I was smiling; I should’ve been terrified at even the slightest prospect at fighting my infamous father. Serghar Kaltos was the best of the best, held in either awe or begrudging respect of the mercenary assassin organisations throughout the Calixis sector and even the Inquisition. He was a un bested master of the blade with decades more experience than me. But yet here I was utterly unafraid, joyous even! Perhaps it was because of the knowledge that I couldn’t truly die? I doubted that, as I’d felt a similar joy when fighting the two death cult assassins earlier and then didn’t know I was a perpetual.
I was lost in thought, so Serghar struck first, but my body moved seemingly on its own, sidestepping his stab and countered with an upward diagonal cut at his open ribs. Despite this, he still reposted, parried with breathtaking speed then attacked with an overhead vertical slash I danced back of it, barely. And he continued his offence, dashing at me like lightning with a thrust I blocked. I turned into a horizontal blow that parried again and followed with a downward cut Serghar back stepped.
It was then the advancing Arbites passed by us, their heavy footfalls crunching over the rockcrete.
“Shit!” I snarled, so caught up in the combat I’d forgotten about them entirely. With a flick of the wrist, I had a knife in hand and threw it at Serghar’s face. Serghar leaned out of its path which allowed my front kick to crash against his torso, throwing him against a parked vehicle so hard it dented inward, and he fell on his face.
I dashed at the nearest Arbites’ back and cut him in two before he had any clue I was there. The two on his sides saw this, and impressively fast they turned to fire, but I was already behind the left Arbites’ back and stabbing him through the chest. I spun on my heels, so the screaming impaled Arbite was now facing the next on the left just as he opened fire, abruptly silencing him and I threw another knife into the visor of the one on the right. With a snarl and a sidekick, I sent the dead Arbite crashing into his comrade with bone-crunching force.
The others, hearing the fire behind them turned to investigate, but now I had a shotgun. I exploded one’s stomach as he was in mid-turn. Not the most kindly of kills but had very little chance to be extremely accurate in my situation. Then relieved another of his left leg before I was forced to sprint into the cover of a nearby vehicle, a millisecond before their shots cut through the air where I just stood.
I knew that vehicle wouldn’t last long under such a barrage, so moved and slid over another’s bonnet, crouched and turned to return fire with my new shotgun, but then frigging Serghar Kaltos was on me again.
His powersword cut clean through my shotgun while was I getting to my feet and I was in the midst of drawing my sword when his sidekick crashed painfully into my gut, sending me reeling back, winded.
I only just managed to duck his darting sword and wheeled from his following thrust, which burst through a vehicle door like it was butter. He sliced through it and pivoted into a horizontal cut I backpedalled. Trying to get my breathing back I dashed into his flank, aiming a low snap kick at his shin, boot knife out. Serghar danced out the way and reposted into a stab. But that attack had granted me the precious milliseconds which allowed me to draw my sword, activate it in a blaze of blue and smash his stab off course and him off balance. He leaned back from my back fist and cut up diagonally at my torso. I leapt desperately to the right just fast enough to barely make it out the way but not soon enough to keep it cutting a huge chunk off my flak jacket.
I clenched my teeth, seeing the Arbites had the van surrounded and were approaching the doors, weapons raised.
I couldn’t do anything; my friends were dead, I’d failed again.
I weaved beneath Serghar’s next slash and countered with a horizontal arc and a snarl. Damn it! If I couldn’t save them, I’d frigging avenge them! Even if it meant killing my father, assuming this masked man was my father, he could easily be another Feuilt.
Serghar parried and sliced at my legs, forcing me to dart back. I heard an explosion and the inevitable deathly screams. I blocked Serghar’s next slash and risked another look. What I saw made me gasp. More Arbites were on the ground dead or stunned and injured. Then a figure fast like lightning emerged from the van, power scimitar decapitating two Arbites as at his flanks Helma and Verenth cut down the remainder. Helma with her Hell gun, Verenth with his Auto pistol.
I laughed with relief and back peddled Serghar’s vertical cut then threw a low roundhouse kick he sidestepped, but with the same leg, my front kick smashed hard against his hip sending him stumbling to the ground. I lunged at him, slashing at his skull. Serghar rolled out the way, his kick connected with my thigh making me stumble back, allowing him to jump to his feet.
Ignoring the pain in my leg, I darted at him, slicing at his skull diagonally. He parried and his hook punch connected with my jaw that sent waves of pain through my face. I reeled but was still able to parry his stab and send sidekick for his knee which he blocked with a shin.
I darted back from his counter, a horizontal slash and fought to control my ragged breathing but I was still smiling
He fell further back, and for a few seconds we stood silent, weapons readied for the other to strike.
“You’re good,” I said. “Frigging good, but you’re no Serghar Kaltos.”
I sniggered and smiled, “if you were him, I’d be already dead. Who are you? One of his apprentices? Like me? Like Feuilt?”
The masked man didn’t answer, and we started to circle each other, me right, he left.
Then a thought occurred to me and I frowned.
“Either that or you are my father, and just toying with me, you old bastard.”
The Assassin tilted his head, “anyone ever said you talk too…”
He never got to finish his sentence as Darrance just suddenly seemingly appeared from nowhere and decapitated him.
I gaped in shock as the assassin’s corpse collapsed, blood jetting from the neck.
“That...that was my kill you frigger!” I snapped.
“We haven’t the time, Apprentice!” he roared. “We must…”
Darrance trailed off in his sentence as he heard it, we all heard it. A familiar rumbling, chopping sound.
“Shit!” Darrance yelled. “Ornithopter, inbound!”
It appeared abruptly over the buildings in the northwest, about half a kilometre away. The Autocannon on its nose whirled dangerously.
“Why?” I gasped.
“Why, what?” snarled Darrance.
“Why didn’t they send that in first?”
Darrance thought on that but could only purse his lips and shrug.
Then it opened fire.