Saturday, April 23, 2011

Radical: Hymn

This is Radical part IV.  For more check the table of contents here.

The Manufactorum of the Adeptus Mechanicus reminded me of our cathedrals. Great vaulted ceilings rose above us so high that the guttering luminators interspersed around the hallways couldn't reach, and their peaks were shrouded in darkness. Sometimes skittering movement could be heard above us, up in the deep shadows, but there was nothing we could do about it, so we moved on. Moving through the facility took much longer than we had expected, with its twisting corridors and blind turns we had to move slowly, ever on the watch for an ambush.

At what seemed to be regular intervals we'd see signs of battle in the hallways, impacts of bolter shells in the masonry, gashes from chain weapons on the walls, splashes of blood on a luminator giving the entire area an eerie glow. We never found any bodies though, a fact which gave me some kind of odd hope, but which seemed to make Halquin even more nervous and dour. When I asked her about it she said, “Reclamation.” After that she refused to talk about it.

Once, we heard the distinct sound of battle ahead, and we charged forward to meet it, hoping to find our remaining sisters, but the echoes in the maze-like structure proved deceiving. While the battle sounded just around the next corner, we did not find its evidence for quite some time. Once again, there were no bodies, but here the blood still dripped, and warm chunks of ceramite lay scattered in the hallway, warm chunks of power armor blown apart by bolt shells. We were getting close. Halquin called out, “Regina, come here. What does this look like to you?”

My gaze followed Halquin's direction, and I suppressed a gasp. I had missed it in the darkness, but the wall where the Sister Superior was pointing had been caved in by a tremendous impact. All of the stonework had crumbled away from the crater, and something dark metallic lay hidden amongst the rubble. I reached in and pulled it free, grunting under the weight even with the enhanced strength my power armor gave me, then brought it into the light. It was a breastplate, too large for a normal man, cast in an incandescent dark blue and marked all over with runes and sigils that hurt my brain to look at. I knew what it was instantly, the power armor of a chaos space marine, and backed away, whispering prayers to The Emperor to protect me from the malediction of the tainted object. Then I noticed that the breastplate was not undamaged. Seared into the armor just above the heart was a stylized I with three bars crossing through it, burned there as if branded, and I recognized it immediately. “That's from the Inquisitor's Daemon Hammer! He's still alive!”

After that we moved forward more recklessly, less worried about ambush than we were about arriving too late to help Inquisitor Fane. During long corridors we would sprint, trusting in the Emperor and our power armor to protect us from any unforseen threats, but none came. The Inquisitor was clearing out the hallways ahead of us. Eventually we burst out of the maze of corridors and into a vast chamber of catwalks and pulleys, lit a blazing orange from below by great smelting fires. The cooling systems in my armor fired up immediately, and cool, stale air filled my nostrils. I was about to speak when the stone walkway we had appeared on began to shake and jutter under the impact of what I instantly recognized was bolter fire. Halquin dove back into the hallway, dragging me along just ahead of a stream of bolts that left smoking craters in the stonework. The doorway became a cloud of dust, disintegrating under the sustained fire, but it ebbed out as we heard a feminine voice shout out, “Cease fire! Cease fire! You, in the doorway, identify yourseleves!"

Halquin shouted back, “Sister Superior Kora Halquin, Redemption Squad!” She stepped out of the doorway, and I followed. At the far end of the room I finally saw them, our sisters. There were two dozen of them, barricaded behind arcane equipment and up a large flight of ceramite stairs. They were guarding a large cogwheel doorway of burnished brass that reflected the light of the fires below in a pattern of twisting wrongness that I couldn't see clearly.

“Halquin, The Emperor watches over you diligently, doesn't he? I saw your Rhino get hit. We didn't think there were any survivors.” The woman speaking was Palatine Analyn LaFollet, the head of our commandery. She was a short woman, only coming up to my shoulder, but a good commander and, I had heard, a fierce warrior. She stood in the open, at the top of the stairs, and the hopeful expression on her face fell as she saw us. “Where's the rest of your squad?”

“Fallen in service,” Halquin said, leading me across the twisting network of stone catwalks towards our sisters. “Most died with the Rhino, the rest in an ambush at the doors of the manufactorum. We are all that remain. Where are the rest of our sisters?”

Analyn just shook her head, “This is it. The damned traitor marines took their toll. We hadn't been expecting them. We were prepared for some servitors, not the full force of the traitor legions. Only by the light of The Emperor did we even make it this far.”

“Well damn,” Halquin said, “I was hoping to take some tea and leave the rest to you. I guess we'll have to help out then.”

“Where's the Inquisitor?' I asked, and my superiors turned to look at me. Analyn seemed to recognize me for the first time.

“By the Emperor, is that Regina? I barely recognized you through all that filth. The Inquisitor is inside with what's left of his retinue, setting the meltabombs. We're to hold this position until his return.”

I looked once more to the brass door , sealed closed behind Inquisitor Fane, and tried to ignore the way that the reflections of the flames below seemed to form screaming faces. The Warp's corruption was all around us, and I once more thought of the guardsmen gone mad outside, not protected from the forces of chaos by their faith as we were. A chill ran down my spine, and I turned away.

“Take your positions on the line,” Analyn said, and we moved to a section of machinery that looked like it would stop incoming bolter fire. It was all pipes and cogs, running in and out of thick black cases with yellowing prayer scrolls attached to it with red wax. We were in place next to a Retributor squad, and I took comfort in the two sisters beside me and their heavy weapons. Both had multimeltas, and I knew that the anti-tank weapons would reduce anything that came at us to steam, be it traitor marine or dreadnought.

From my vantage point I could see the entire chamber. The room was two hundred meters long and a hundred meters wide, with stone catwalks with heavy steel railings crisscrossing it at various heights and angles. Far below us were the furnaces and smelting vats, burning and boiling, filling the whole chamber with a hazy pallor of smoke that rose all the way up to the vast ceiling above us. It seemed like the enemy could come from any direction, above or below, and we sisters had simply put our backs to the wall in expectation of their arrival.

Halquin nudged me, “Regina, take your time, aim for the head. You're a blessed shot, don't waste ammunition trying to bring down the traitor marines with volume of fire.”

I nodded and risked a half smile, “Still, I wish I had my storm bolter.” She clapped me on the shoulder, then turned to the defense.

We did not wait long for the attack, though it was not what we expected. They sent the combat servitors after us first. They came sprinting down the catwalks, or leaping at us from overhead. Some rolled forward on heavy tracks while others nimbly skittered over the walls like insects on small, multijointed legs. As the battle was begun I finally understood what Halquin had meant when she said Reclamation. Many of the servitors were female, and some still wore the livery of the Cleansing Fire Commandery. This facility had taken the corpses of our fallen sisters and twisted them into abominations of machine and warpcraft. I imagine that if we'd not had Palatine Analyn's leadership we might have cracked then, but she rose from the ranks and stood at the top of the stairs, her plasma pistol taking a deadly toll on the corruption before us, and she began to sing a hymn for the fallen. We all joined her, our voices rising above the din of the battle. When one of our sisters fell, hit by an autocannon mounted on the body of a woman I recognized as poor Barbara, stripped of her armor, the chainaxe wound still a gaping hole between her naked breasts, the volume of our hymn only rose to compensate. I put the thing that used to be my sister down with a short burst that sent her reeling over the catwalk and into the cleansing fires below.

After the servitors came the traitor marines. Khorne Berserkers in their blood red armor charged at us across the catwalks, and for each we felled two more seemed to take his place. From above chaos Raptors fell, their jump packs flaring and their bolt pistols barking death down upon us. They drew our fire and fell in droves before they could land, but the few that dropped amongst us killed many. Analyn charged them, cleaving one in half with her power sword and ending another with a shot from her plasma pistol that burned a hole stright through his chest. When the Berserkers finally arrived Analyn fell amongst them like The Emperor's wrath made manifest. We fired into the melee, and the multimeltas beside me cut great furrows in their ranks as they piled in towards Analyn. Halquin shouted and vaulted over to the pipes we were taking cover behind, charging into the melee and lashing out with sarissa and the butt of her bolter. She and the Palatine managed to hold the line while the rest of us fired into the melee, mowing down the traitor marines as fast as we could.

A bolt exploded the head of the retributor beside me, covering me in her gore and fouling my vision. I wiped the blood from my eyes with the back of my gauntlet and raised my voice, screaming the hymn now rather than singing it, and dropped my bolter. I pried the multimelta from my sister's hands and braced it against the pipes, tears streaming down my eyes as I fired again and again. Halquin and Analyn were gone, hidden amongst the mass of blood red power armor that had surged forward to meet us, so I fired into the center of the group, over and over again until the pipe I'd propped the heavy weapon on began to drip onto the floor, melted from the heat.

And then, it was over. The last of the Berserkers fell, stumbling under a storm of bolter fire that tore him limb from limb. Halquin and Analyn still stood, surrounded by a pile of bodies, their armor sheared through and blood leaking from a dozen wounds each. Analyn had lost her arm at the shoulder, blown apart as her plasma pistol had finally overheated, but she was ignoring the cauterized wound and holding her power sword in her remaining hand. She started to collapse, but Halquin caught her nd dragged her back to the firing line. The hymn stopped, and we all crowded around our leader. There were only six of us now, out of the entire commandery. Analyn smiled, somehow, and said, “We have done our duty, sisters. The Inquisitor is safe, and these traitors are dead. Ave Imperator.”

“Ave Imperator,” we all repeated, bowing our heads and making the sign of the Aquila. Analyn tried, crossing one arm over her chest, only able to make half the sign, then fell unconscious. As another of the sisters knelt to take care of her, I turned to Halquin. “Now what do we do?”

She did not get a chance to answer. The air around us began to crackle with unleashed energies, and we spun back to face the stairs. I'm still not sure exactly what I saw that day, and I am glad for it. Man was not meant to witness warpcraft of that magnitude, and the blessed are quick to forget it, but I remember bits and pieces. Something tore open before us, leading to a place I can only see now in nightmares, and the legions of chaos spilled out into the chamber. Dozens, hundreds fell screaming into the furnace fires below, but some latched onto the catwalks with clawed hands and barbed talons, wielding twisted black swords. Daemons. How many of them I don't know, but they stared at we sisters with a lust for blood in their burning eyes, and with a shout that could issue from no mortal throat, they charged us.

So ends the fourth passage of the Personal Record of Palatine Regina Winterfield concerning the fate of Inquisitor Isimbard Kane.


  1. Wow, really great writing, some of the best I've read on the blogs.

    Wishing you a speedy return to full health and now following your blog with rapt attention, having spent a fun afternoon catching up on all your previous posts.

    Your Ork stuff iz da Dogz Bollox!


  2. This is why you put Cortex Bombs in your Psykers...