A first glimpse.
‘Oh crud. It’s a Lar’shi-Class.’ Andrasi uttered.
Grungi snorted in disdain.
‘Only one? I’m offended.’
The entire ship shook around them, a low thrum resonating through the bulkheads.
‘Well, that’s it.’ Andrasi groaned. ‘They’ve deployed gravitic hooks. We’re snared. Damn! Damn damn damn!’
‘So, what now?’ Codian asked, glancing as the lights about his head began to flicker and dim once more.
Grungi appeared and shuffled over to his side, removing his padded flight jacket as he did so to reveal the tight bare skin of his barrel chest beneath.
‘First they’ll send the boarding drones. They can’t ‘shift’ like the Nicassar, so they have to cut their way through. Once the drones have done their job, that’s when the Shas’kayon will come. I suspect you will find them very worthy adversaries. I will try to save some of them for you.’
Codian frowned and turned his attention to the doorway of the bridge for a moment, searching for any sign of his brothers. Somewhere to his side, he heard Andrasi’s chilling warning as he activated the ship’s vox system.
‘Why do you do that?’
Grungi frowned, peering up at the towering warrior.
‘You strip to your waist before a fight, Demiurg. Why do you do that?’
The short alien smiled.
‘I let them see my scars. I show them that I am not afraid of death, that I have faced it many times and still stand before them. I offer my flesh to their guns and their blades. That way, they may mark their own passing upon my skin. I will not hide behind armour.’
Codian frowned as he heard this. He retrieved the skull-faced helm hanging from his belt and slid it over his head, locking it in place with a slight twist.
‘I hide behind nothing, alien. My armour will show them what I am. I am Death personified, the Emperor’s wrath given form. I want them to see that as I relieve them of their debased lives.’
That was when the first screeching shudder ran through the ship.
‘The aft airlock!’ Andrasi hissed, leaning towards the flashing display before him. He turned towards the Space Marine, a look of foreboding spreading across his face.
‘You had better hope your Techpriest brother is on his way up here, Chaplain. The damn drones are coming in right next to him.’
At the end of the darkened corridor, the airlock shook. The thick metal rumbled as it began to glow, the edges shimmering as they changed in hue from grey, to crimson and then orange. Bright blue sparks began to spill from the affected areas and patter across the deck like water and a keening wail grew steadily louder, its scream playing herald to the arrival of the attackers. Within moments, the rough circular hunk of metal at the centre of the ring of glowing fire burst inwards and the Tau automatons flooded through in silence, multiple searchlights piercing the gloom.
Large, heavy creations, built for smashing their way through reinforced steel, the tri-legged drones thundered out into the corridor, the glowing blue teeth of their twin pulse-cutters buzzing menacingly. Servos whined and footfalls thumped as they lurched forward, their smooth, domed sensor arrays turning from side to side as they hunted for any opposition.
They found Laenar waiting.
‘Laenar! This is Codian! Answer me!’
He hurtled around the corner, the deck quaking beneath his heavy boots. Sounds of conflict began to filter through to him, echoing along the seemingly endless corridors beyond.
There was conflict up ahead.
He turned another corner and ground to a halt, skidding over the smooth deck. A storm of alien metal swirled about the space, the Tau-forged technology illuminated by flashes and sparks as it came apart. Laenar stood at the centre of the maelstrom, a vast shadow of black carapace, the huge arms of his newly acquired servo-harness flailing about him. The plasma cutter crackled as it bisected one of the automatons, the two servo arms tearing another apart as if it were paper.
‘The Caesus.’ He growled dispassionately, his voice more alien and inhuman than it had ever been. ‘We cannot allow its capture.’
Codian thundered into the fray like a force of nature, his sacred weapon flashing as it cleaved the air in two. More of the machines fell, unable to defend themselves in such a small space.
‘For the Imperium! For Macragge and for Terra!’ He hollered, the words spilling from his mouth unbidden.
He pushed past the Techmarine and sprinted onwards; decapitating another drone with a fierce, upwards swing. His other hand found his bolt pistol and he thrust it forward, firing as he ran. The machines ahead began to stall and turn as he approached, only to shudder and break apart under the relentless assault.
‘Codian, come in! Chaplain!’
Berolinus’s voice barked over the vox, the sounds of the fight that accompanied it giving away the Marine’s proximity.
Codian ignored it. Up ahead he could see the breach.
Beyond that, the enemy ship.