His hand rests on the mutilated face of the Word Bearer. The same hands that only a few hours previously had caused the grievous and ultimately fatal wounds that litters the brutalised body of the Space Marine now rests on his face with a mournful tenderness.
There is genuine sadness in his hearts as he lifts his hand and touches the activation rune on the side of the metal casket. With a hiss of steam the steel box closes, encasing the Word Bearer in his metal tomb, the Imperial Aquila staring defiantly from the lid. A rumbling growl discloses the disagreement of the space marine standing five paces behind him. “We should have stripped the Aquila from the casket, Sir”, growls the scarred giant. “The void won’t care!” “True, Brother Drask”, the Ultramarine answers, “but I would”. The giant growls his disapproval again. “… Traitor Pig. Should’ve burned him. Should’ve dismembered – destroyed – burned – killed – killed – KILL!” The giant shivers to control himself while battle hormones whip through his system. The Ultramarine doesn’t so much a flinch. “Compose yourself, Brother Drask”, he says without raising his voice or turning to face the World Eater. “This is a space marine brother of The Word Bearers Legion’s 8th company. His death was neither glorious nor brave. Despite his training and vows to his Primarch he died a failure. We bested him in open combat, we defeated him on the field of battle, slew his brothers and captured him alive. We broke his spirits and made a disgrace of him. I will show him this one honour in death though he maintained none in life”. Raising his voice to become a booming command he speaks: “Battle Brother Jonah Deavechis of Gaol Wortek of the XVII Legion– you have fallen from the Emperor’s grace, dishonoured your warrior oath, murdered the very civilians you were sworn to protect. For your transgressions I have taken your life from you in the worst possible way – but though your life was forfeited and your honour ruined I saw something in your eyes. I saw the realisation of your wrongdoing. I saw your hearts break. Therefore; in respect for what you once were, I commit your body to the void with the Aquila watching over you for all eternity”. He stands back and touches another rune on the side of the wall. Slowly the casket sinks into the floor before being loaded into one of several torpedo silos aboard the Vindictum Imperialis. He calls the room to attention. Twenty pairs of armoured boots in every colour imaginable slam together, and as the room reverberates with the sound of the torpedo silo’s discharge the honour guard of Special Operations Group 5021 salutes.
When Desaris Thyne was entrusted with command and the rank of Brother Sergeant he had more than 40 years of loyal and tenacious service behind him. The name “Arbalest” wouldn’t go away. It stuck with him through different sections, missions and responsibilities and even followed him when Captain Ailerian promoted him Veteran Sergeant of 13th Grand Company. When threatening to be forgotten by too much new blood and rotations in and out of the company the name was renewed by some incredible feat of throwing in the thick of battle. Desaris Thyne still appreciated the nickname despite Sergeant Hadrian’s, now Captain and commander of 21st Grand Company, obvious dislike of the name. It still defined him.
He never spoke of it to others, never disclosed it to anyone, but there was more than one reason why he perceived it as natural to accept the name. Ever since his he was accepted as a novice amongst thousands of other applicants struggling to survive in the forests clad mountains of Calth he had had an uncanny sense of when danger was eminent. A foresight if you will, though of the most vague and futile kind. From his earliest training he had been able to sense the onset of immediate danger by a short ringing tone. There was never any indication of where from or in what shape, way or form the danger would manifest itself – but he would always feel danger manifest as an alarm, a short but distinctive “Ping”. In the beginning he thought it was some sort physical disorder. A sound of nerve synapses firing in the deep of his mind, maybe even blood vessels filling before the onset of combat, preparing him for survival under the most difficult of circumstances. Later on, as the changes of his inductions into the line of the super human Space Marines had wreaked irrevocable havoc on his physicality, he started to recognise it for what it was. Premonition – pure and simple. The “ping” would always be there before danger reared it’s ugly face. He never spoke of it to others – not only out of fear that they might think him a psyker or touched by some other impurity rendering him unable to serve as an Ultramarine, but because he genuinely feared they might perceive him as crazy. The sound signalling danger had from the onset been the unmistakeable ping of the lever leaving the body of a hand grenade.
The thunder of the plasma engines of the Vindictum Imperialis subsides as the captain adjusts for the gravitational pull of the massive gas giant of Caligine. The bridge is left in almost absolute darkness while the captain, select crew and more than a hundred lobotomized servitors work diligently at bringing the massive ship closer to orbit without detection from possible enemies. Standing behind the command throne, towering over the mortals is the armoured form of Brother Sergeant Thyne, observing the work of the mortal crew. Behind him the gate to the bridge opens and another Astartes clad in charcoal black power armour enters to stand at attention behind him. “You summoned me, Sir?” he says. “Brother Thracius”, the sergeant replies. “We are arriving at Caligine as we speak. Within six hours we will be entering the orbit of Caligine II. I plan to enter the moon’s orbit over the drop site and initiate landfall immediately. We will either set down in drop pods within extreme support range of the mining facility with three quarters of 5021 or land the fighting force in Storm Birds. Based on the distress signal from Brother Sergeant Ceorl I consider the drop zone hot. Therefore we will be forced to close on the installation with speed. We still do not know the status of the installation and a direct drop pod attack upon the mining station will almost certainly cause a collapse of the stations atmosphere processing system killing anyone inside not wearing Astartes Armour or rebreathers. I consider this an unacceptable risk. I now face a dilemma, Brother Thracius: To either land on the installation with Storm Birds and risk auto laser AA in exchange for speed in deployment, or risk a drop pod deployment at range and close on the installation on foot. I am personally in favour of the latter as we are almost certainly numerically and relatively strong than the enemy, but my plan must be based on a sound disposition of heavy weapons support. You, Brother Thracius, are my Devastator Specialist. There are four devastators in total in 5021. What say you? Can you set up a firebase of such overwhelming power that my men and I can close on the installation over open ground or will I have to risk a Storm Bird landing on the installation?” Brother Thracius hesitates for exactly two point eight seconds before answering. “We have two auto cannons, a heavy bolter and a Lascannon as well as three heavy flamers for close encounters, Sir. I can set up a firebase with overlapping arcs of fire that can tear apart anything but the strongest defensive positions. In short, the answer to your question is yes. I can set up a firebase of overwhelming power able to support a dismounted attack”. Sergeant Thyne nods to himself before pointing to a pict screen in front of him. “Good. I intend to attack the mining installation from south and east at 0709 local time, which is in the early dawn. Prepare your plan for fire cover and I will allocate drop points accordingly”. The Dark Angel answers with a “Wilco, Brother Sergeant”, and snaps off a smart salute before leaving the bridge.
There is a hissing of pistons as the drop pod closes like a flower after nightfall. Desaris Thyne strains in his grav harness and look around at the battle brothers filling the confined space of the Drop Pod. Preparations have gone according to plan, the attack will be overwhelming in force and direct to the extreme. Overlapping arcs of fire commands every entrance and exit to the site. At the simplest of commands he can turn it into a burning hellhole or optimally he can seize it without letting loose a single round. He feels confident this will be a success despite the lack of intelligence from the surface. Brothers Drask, Flogger, Tauron share the Drop Pod with him. They are all fine Astartes – soldiers he has fought with one and all. He feels good about this combat drop. What ever is down there, it will feel the wrath of the Emperor. Arbalest he thinks to himself. A demanding siege engine that requires a massive crew. True. But the arbalest is used to target the strong point of any defender. From afar it will kill the commander of a fortress or strike down a leader of a consolidated defence rendering resistance absolutely useless. He smiles inside his helmet. Oh, yes, Arbalest is a name that suits him well. The count down reaches zero and with a roar of launch thrusters and a kilometre long tongue of flame the drop pods deploys into the silent nothingness of space before beginning to trail fire upon entering the atmosphere at unbelievable speed.
Inside the pods sits an Ultramarine sergeant. Inside his helmet he has stopped smiling. Inside his head he hears the distinct “ping” of a lever leaving a grenade.
- Remove any threat to the safety of operations on Caligine II