This was my very first mission. I was still a novice in the order and had never fired my bolter in anger before. I can imagine how I must have looked then, too thin neck sticking out of my power armor, trembling as I watched each gibbering soldier cut down, reciting my prayers with a stammering voice as Sister Superior Halquin led us in benediction against the foul creatures we were about to face. I think I might have pissed myself, I'm not completely sure.
We'd been briefed by Inquisitor Argus Fane, may the Emperor keep his soul, on what we faced upon this blighted world. Apparently the Mechanicus had been running a research facility here and performed some heresy or other in one of their experiments. Within a week the facility had gone rogue, corrupted by the warp energies they had released, and within a month there was a full blown daemon incursion on the world. To this day I don't know why Fane didn't simply call exterminatus on the world and whatever reasons he had for mounting this assault died with him on Ulric. He'd called upon every resource he could muster to attack Ulric, and they were considerable. Three companies of Imperial Guard, the fourth and first companies of the Harbingers Astartes chapter and our own Cleansing Fire commandery landed on Ulric, and directly into hell.
When the drop-ship touched down fully half of the Imperial Guard with us had already fallen, and those that remained were doing little more than fleeing the wrath of their commissar when they left the drop-ship and hit the front lines. My sisters and I were the one of the last units to leave the drop ship, having loaded into our rhino, we followed in the wake of the Imperial Guard chimeras and the hundreds of ground troops that had set out to secure the landing zone. They'd failed. There were beasts on the ground that the guard, simply men with lasguns, were not prepared to face. When we heard the fighting Sister Halquin mounted the rhino's storm bolter and called me up to support her. I am not too modest to say that, even at that age, I was a remarkable shot.
I took my own storm bolter and climbed into the open top hatch next to Halquin and I got my first glimpse of what a daemonworld was. The sky was a sickly pink, devoid of clouds, but full of shimmering warplight that hurt my mind to look at. All of the ground was blood red and terrible, with great rifts that spewed green fire into the sky. The guard were being slaughtered around us in droves by what I assumed were servitors. Great inhuman beasts with mechanical limbs and heavy weaponry were massacring the men. I watched as a twisted mechanical form turned a heavy bolter onto the commissar I had seen before, and the man was reduced to a cloud of bloody mist before my very eyes. I took aim and sent a burst of bolter shells into the beast, but the impacted harmlessly against its mechanical parts, and it spun on our rhino. Heavy bolter rounds ricocheted off of the transport's heavy armor, and Halquin joined me in pouring fire into the monstrosity until it fell, the life pummeled out of it from our combined fire.
More of these battle servitors came marching across the blasted plains at us, and for each one we managed to bring down, more appeared. When my storm bolter ran dry, I called down for another weapon, and someone handed me a meltagun. I have never been comfortable with meltaguns, and I would have preferred a bolter, but the rhino was moving too fast for anything but inaccurate blasts at close range. I braced myself against the open hatch and took careful aim, firing the weapon at each servitor as they got close, reducing them to molten piles of slag. It was an effective weapon, no doubt, but each time I fired the weapon it burned my retinas, leaving blinding afterimages swimming in my vision, and the heat from the shots seared my lungs, making it nearly impossible to breathe.
Still the rhino traveled on. We were to make a beachhead a kilometer North of our landing zone so that the guard coming in behind us could set up their basilisks and other artillery to support our push towards the mechanicus facility. In truth, I have no idea how we made it to the line. By the time we reached the location we were supposed to hold, the Rhino was pitted with impact shells and was lurching along at half of its normal speed. A rocket had clipped the transport in the rear and jammed the tracks, resulting in a terrible grinding as our driver forced the machine to push on anyway. The rhino's storm bolter was empty, and I was on the third and last reload for the meltagun when Halquin pounded on the armor of the rhino and called for a stop. I climbed down from the hatch and returned the meltagun to Marise, the sister it had been originally assigned to. She wore a re-breather mask and tinted helmet that I hadn't had the luxury to be given.
After taking my storm bolter once more, the back hatch of the rhino opened, and my sisters and I poured out amidst a rain of bolter shells and lasblasts. I used the rhino as cover and leaned around the back side, firing a stream of bolt shells into yet another servitor, this one armed with a pain of buzzing chainfists. It took three concentrated bursts to bring the machine to its knees, and even then it continued to crawl towards us until Marise finished it off the the meltagun. We were faring better than anyone else around us. The guard were getting cut down all around us, and one chimera went up in flames as a shot from a lascannon punched through its armor and hit its ammunition stores. I leaned out to take a shot at a small, fast moving thing that was all legs and blades when I got hit by a stream of fire from a heavy bolter. The impact rolled me over, pitching me onto my back and sending me bouncing across the broken landscape like a discarded doll. My armor miraculously protected me, and none of the shells punched through, but I lost my storm bolter somewhere and came to my feet disoriented and confused. All I could hear were explosions and gunfire.
Dazed, I tried to regain my bearings, only to be pitched to the ground once more. The thing with the blades had found me, moving impossibly fast, dodging the fire of my sisters, coming to pounce upon the wounded prey. I saw it raised three of its blades, and shouted, bringing my arm up just in time to avoid having my face torn into. My ceramite gauntlet deflected one of the blades, and another bounced harmlessly off of the armor, but the third slipped by and slashed across the side of my head. The warm, wet feeling that ran down the side of my face and neck, seeping into my armor let me know that I'd lost my left ear.
With a shout of pain and a burst of adrenalin I managed to shove the thing off of me, and it fell away onto its back a meter away. I scrambled to my feet, searching for my lost weapon, but it was gone, lost somewhere in the chaos. I called to my sisters, but they didn't hear me, they were busy exchanging fire with something else that I couldn't see, blocked by the bulk of the rhino. I had been knocked a dozen meters back by the heavy bolter, and I couldn't each them. A shriek warned me just in time that the machine had recovered, and I threw myself to the ground blindly. It sailed over me, landing on the cracked ground as nimbly as an acrobat, and I got my first look at it. A half dozen human legs surrounded a mechanical center piece that had a dozen or more scything, needle-like blades suspended over it in small, articulating arms. Whoever had built such a thing was far gone from the light of the Emperor.
It leapt at me again, and I lashed out with my leg, catching the thing in mid flight. The augmented strength the power armor gave me sent the servitor sprawling once more, but it rose again, uninjured and undeterred. Without a weapon I was going to quickly lose this fight. If I could dodge it again I could run back towards my sisters and shout a warning. A single bolt from any of them would end this abomination instantly. So I prepared myself to dive out of the way of its next pounce, and as it charged I ducked, only to be knocked flat onto my face as the thing darted between my legs, flicking its blades out and cutting into the joints of my armor. The pain was unexpected, and I cried out as my boots filled with blood. Hamstrung, I couldn't rise again, and could only roll onto my back to meet my death head on.
The creature wasted no time, but instead leapt forward again, and I watched as it turned in mid air, bringing all of its terrible weapons to bear on my unarmored face, then a blast of light so bright it shook my brain inside of my skull took the thing out of mid air. It writhed in midair, lightning arcing from its metal parts while its blades flailed wildly, cutting its legs away in a storm of blood and oily fluids. It collapsed on the ground, twitching ineffectually.
At the time, I thought that the Emperor himself had protected me, and to this day I sometimes wonder if that wasn't exactly what had happened. A figure appeared in my vision, garbed in shimmering gold power armor and wielding a hammer almost as large as he was. He extended a hand down to me, and I took it in awe. As he pulled me to my feet I saw the Inquisitorial Rosette encased on plastisteel on the front of his armor. "Come," he said, and his voice booms with that heavy baritone in my memories still. "The Emperor requires too much of you for you to die today."
That was how I met Inquisitor Argus Fane, Martyr of Ulric.
So ends the first passage of the Personal Record of Palatine Regina Winterfield concerning the fate of Inquisitor Isimbard Kane.
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