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She gave a near imperceptible nod by way of acknowledgement. The gesture was all but lost in the high collar of her uniform and the thick, furred mantle that hung around her shoulders. Admiral Kaminska was a stern-faced matriarch. A monocle over her left eye partly obscured a savage scar that cracked that side of her face. She carried a control wand at her waist, secured by a loop of leather, and a naval pistol sat snugly in a holster at her hip. Gloved hands bore a lightning flash emblem made from metal; they were tense and gripped the supports of her command throne tightly.
As an Astartes fleet commander, it was within the remit of his authority to take command of the ship. For now, he decided he would allow the admiral some leeway. He was sketching a suitable reproach in his mind, when Kaminska continued. It was a warhorse ship of the fleet, its combat scars too numerous to count. Its star was in decline, as better, more powerful ships made their presence felt in the greater galaxy. Cestus suspected that the Boundless had been docked at Vangelis for some time, its role in the Great Crusade somewhat diminished, and that Captain Vorlov did not wish to submit to atrophy just yet.
He had, after all, taken her ship for a mission of dubious reasoning. Her attitude, he told himself, was to be expected. There is little time to lose. She had come to Vangelis to effect repairs and take on supplies and replacement crew. She had been looking forward to a week or so of recuperation. It was not 54 Ben Counter that she resented serving — she was a dutiful soldier of the Imperium who had distinguished herself on numerous occasions for its greater glory — no, she took umbrage at the fact that this particular mission was fostered on hunches and, as far as she could tell, whimsy.
It did not sit well with Kaminska, not at all. Her long hair was tied up severely, and her shoulders were forced to attention by the brocade of her uniform. The bright, hard gleam of Vangelis was visible from the assembly point, surrounded by a fuzzy shoal of lesser lights: satellite listening spires, fleets at anchor and orbital debris. Icons blinked onto the screens, showing the positions of the other ships in the makeshift fleet.
The four escorts — Fearless, Ferox, Ferocious and Fireblade — were flying in a slanted diamond around the Wrathful. Even at this distance, the Astartes craft was impressive, a sleek dart of red and gold. The Boundless, a cruiser like the Wrathful, but fitted out with decks for attack craft, was further out, still making its approach. Satisfied that they were about ready to disembark, Admiral Kaminska flicked a control stud on the arm of her throne and the bridge vox-caster opened up.
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Advance to primary way point, plasma engines three-quarters. The Tertiary Core Transit was the most stable warp route from Segmentum Solar to the galactic south-east. It would take them to their destination expediently, and hopefully allow the Wrathful to gain some ground on whatever foes, real or imagined, awaited them in the void. It was also the route that any void-farer, if he or she did not want to take a four to five year detour, would take to arrive at the Calth system. The Astartes had been very specific about that.
It would have been unseemly to do otherwise. Kaminska resolved to discover the truth later. She could feel the vibration through the panelled floor of the bridge. The escort squadron moved into formation on the viewscreens, followed by the Waning Moon and the Boundless. Whatever was out there, they would find out soon enough. The Imperial ship and her fleet had reached the region of real space as indicated by the co-ordinates provided by Captain Cestus, the supposed site of the destruction of the Fist of Macragge, in short order. They found no sign of the Ultramarine vessel.
Unlike battles on land, where evidence of a fight could be seen clearly and obviously, conflicts in space were not so easily identifiable. Wrecks drifted, ships could be caught and destroyed in black holes, space debris drawn into the gravity well of a passing moon or small planet, even solar wind could scatter the final proof of a battle ever having taken place. So it 56 Ben Counter was that Kaminska had instructed her Navigator to search for whatever energy traces remained behind, those last vestiges of plasma engine discharge that lingered in spite of all other evidence dissipating due to the ravages of space.
Kaminska scowled at what she perceived as arrogance, and returned to her original position. Set radar array to full power, Mister Orcadus. Take us onward. This is the Word of Lorgar, as it is written. Over fifty Word Bearers had gathered for the seminary and knelt in supplication before their lord, wearing grey initiate robes over their crimson armour. The floor, tiled with stone pages cut with passages from the Word, emphasised that this was a place of worship.
It was the very thing that the Emperor had forbidden in his Legions. One of the initiates stood among the congregation, indicating his desire to respond. Where, then, is such power? He will have plumbed deep of his core and unleashed his hate, for in no other way can such a victory be achieved. In his short-sightedness, the Emperor has brought us to this inexorable fate.
With our hate, our devotion to the credos of our primarch, the all-powerful Lorgar, we will achieve our victory. None in the cathedral dared speak. They sit on a pedestal, above reproach, above their brothers, above even our noble Warmaster! The assembled Word Bearers departed in silence into the shadows around the edge of the cathedral, heading back to their cells to ruminate on the Word. Should I instruct the magos to force the engines to maximum power?
It is possible we could make warp before we are intercepted. It was Ultis, concealed by the shadows, but now stepping into the light at the centre of the cathedra. To the unenlightened observer, it would appear that the Emperor rules the galaxy and the throne of Terra cannot be usurped.
We will yoke our hatred and use it as a weapon, one that will not be denied! Ultis, however, had overreached himself. His pragmatic retardation is his greatest weakness and in his dogmatic ignorance we shall strike at the heart of his favoured Legion. A great passage in the sermon of the Word was unfolding and Ultis would play his part. Zadkiel turned back to the pulpit, behind which was a simple altar. Zadkiel lit a candle there for the soul of Roboute Guilliman. Blind he might be, but he was a brother of sorts, and it was only right that his future death be commemorated.
It was one of several arenas in a much wider gymnasium that was replete with dummies, weights and training mats. Weapon ranks lined the walls. The Astartes had brought their own stocks of training weapons with them, and sword-breakers, short-blades, bludg61 Battle for the Abyss eons and spears were all in evidence. It appeared that the concept of simple training was anathema to the duelling sons of Angron.
Amidst the storm of blades and unbridled blood-lust the World Eaters fought as if to the death.
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Armed with unfettered chainaxes and stripped to the waist, wearing crimson training breeches and black boots, their muscled bodies revealed gruesome welts and long, jagged scars. With a roar, they broke off for a moment, and began circling each other in the sunken chamber of the pit. White marble showed up dark splashes from where the gladiators had wounded each other early on in the contest.
A narrow drain at the centre of the pit was already clogging with blood. Properly employed, their wrath is a useful tool. The burly Astartes was the biggest of the honour guard. Unsurprisingly, his bulk went well with his role of heavy weapons specialist. The rest of the honour guard were nearby, except for Saphrax, watching the ferocious display with mixed interest and disdain. Thestor echoed the thoughts of all his brothers when he next spoke. What has it got to do with our Legion brothers? Though we each have our differences, the Emperor has seen fit for us to conquer the galaxy in his name together.
The moment we seek our own personal glories, when we abandon solidarity for pride, is the moment when brotherhood will be shattered. The big Astartes got to his feet and left the training arena. Do you hold them in such disregard also? They are savages in their own way, yes, but the difference is that they are possessed of a noble spirit. These sons of Angron are blood-letters, pure and simple. They kill for the simple joy of it. You forget your place, Antiges. The Ultramarine captain did not know either of the World Eaters in the duelling pit.
This was ritual combat. No slight, no besmirching of honour had occurred to bring it about. Yet it was bladed and deadly. Cestus knew full well that Guilliman still sought a reckoning with his brother primarch, Angron, concerning the dire events of that mission, but this was no time for recrimination.
Skraal led twenty World Eaters on the Wrathful and Cestus was determined to make the best use of them. Brynngar had brought the same number of Blood Claws, and while they were raucous and pugnacious, especially when forced into idleness in the confines of the ship, they did not harbour the same homicidal bent as the bloody sons of Angron. Mhotep was the only Astartes not aboard the Wrathful. He had his own ship, the Waning Moon, but no squads of Thousand Sons, just cohorts of naval arms-men at his command.
Horus Heresy: Battle for the Abyss
Barely fifty Astartes and the vessels of their makeshift fleet, Cestus hoped it would be enough for whatever was in store. The Ultramarine finally turned his back on the battling World Eaters, deciding he had seen enough. It was Saphrax, come from the bridge where Cestus had instructed he maintain a watch on proceedings. You are not suggesting that a vessel of the Imperium fired upon one of its own? What they saw in the viewscreen when they got there had stunned them both. The vessel they tracked in the void was of Mechanicum design and clearly made for the Legion.
It was bedecked in the iconography of the Word Bearers. It was the largest ship that Cestus had ever seen. Even at a considerable distance it was massive, easily three times the size of the Wrathful, and would have dwarfed an Emperor-class battleship. It bore an impressive array of weapons; tech-adepts aboard the Wrathful had suggested port and starboard broadside laser batteries and multiple torpedo tubes to the prow and stern.
I am certain they will be able to account for themselves. They may have information regarding the Fist of Macragge. He had a gnarled red nose that spoke of long nights drinking to keep away the cold of space, and dressed in the heavy furs typical of his Saturnine heritage. His presence filled the viewscreen through which he was communicating with the bridge of the Wrathful.
Admiral Kaminska, bring the Wrathful in at the lead. Keep the Waning Moon and the escort fleet in our wake. Brynngar, having joined them a moment before, growled beneath his breath. Then I would swim, long and hard, to reach 66 Ben Counter the beast before it could turn and impale me on its horn. Within its thrashing swell I would seize upon it and with my blade pare its flesh and gut its innards. For the orca is a mighty beast, and this was the only way to be sure of its demise.
Kant did as ordered and indicated his readiness to his commander. Kaminska nodded to Cestus. In the name of the Emperor of Mankind, I am ordering you to state your designation and business in this subsector. More silence. Since when did the sons of Lorgar fail to acknowledge the Ultramarines? Perhaps their long-range vox is out. A tactical array abruptly activated, depicting the closing vessels that were virtually lost from sight in the viewport. The Word Bearers ship was a red icon on the display surrounded by sensor readings of the approaching frigates, little more than green blips in its presence.
The image of his Macragge, seen as part of the astropathic warning in the reactor core, came to mind once more. How were the fates of this vessel and his home world entwined? The Word Bearers were his brothers; surely they had nothing to do with the destruction of the Fist of Macragge? Such a thing was unconscionable. Cestus would have his answers soon enough. The Fearless had reached its destination. Zadkiel sat back on his throne.
The feeling of power was intoxicating. The battleship was his to command, like an extension of his body, as if the torpedo tubes and gun turrets were his hands. He could simply spread his fingers and will destruction on the enemy. The central viewscreen showed the closing vessels: a frigate with a strike cruiser in its wake. The frigate did not interest the Word Bearer captain, but the cruiser was an entirely different prospect: fast, well-armed and designed for precision attacks and boarding actions.
It was painted in the livery of the Thousand Sons. Astride his command throne, he glanced at a supplementary screen that depicted a tactical readout of the ship. It had many battle honours, and had followed the Thousand Sons Legion across half the galaxy prosecuting the Great Crusade. The Waning Moon was showing life-signs equivalent to a full regiment of troops gathering at the boarding muster points. After a moment, Sarkorov added. The Astartes in the command throne, which was massively ornate and inset with numerous jewels and engraved runes, looked up in mild surprise.
He had light brown skin and hooded eyes, with a face that spoke of discipline and resolve. Am I speaking to the captain of the Waning Moon? I am Captain Mhotep of the Thousand Sons. Why have you not responded to our hails? Disengage at once. Zadkiel smiled mirthlessly. Great deeds are unfolding, Captain Mhotep. Lines will be drawn. Flame and retribution is coming, and those who are on the wrong side of that line will be burned to ash.
The Thousand Sons were quite the experts at concealing their true emotions. The events of Nikaea must rankle. So are we. What side of the line will you stand on, Mhotep? The vox link to the Waning Moon was cut. The ordnance deck flashed up on the viewscreen, a deep metal canyon beneath the prow crowded with sweating ratings hauling massive torpedoes. Starboard, a bank of laser batteries lit up at once, and beams of crimson light stabbed into the void. They struck the Fearless and the frigate was broken apart in a bright and silent flurry of blossoming explosions.
Powerless, and benumbed, he watched the Fearless fragment like scrap as a firestorm ravaged it, hungrily devouring the oxygen on board and 71 Battle for the Abyss turning it into a raging furnace. It was over in seconds, and after the conflagration had died all that remained was a blackened ruin. Then the torpedoes hit the Waning Moon. The crew were all at battle stations, carefully monitoring the actions of the Word Bearer ship.
Turrets to full! Withdraw boarding parties to damage control stations! Warning runes flashed on multiple screens at once, presaging the missile impacts. Mhotep turned again to his helms-mate. We are taking fire and attempting to evade. The Word Bearers have turned on their own, Cestus.
Cestus fought a cold knot of disbelief building in the pit of his stomach as he watched the spread of blips on the tactical display move into attack positions. The Word Bearers have turned on their own. His words, the words that Cestus had spoken earlier on the training deck to Thestor and Antiges, of brotherhood and the solidarity of the Legions, suddenly turned to ash in his mouth.
He had admonished his brothers for even voicing mild dissent against a fellow Legionnaire, and now, here they were embattled against them. No, they were not World Eaters. They were not the murderous, blood-letters that Antiges had described. They were the devout servants of the Emperor. Ostensibly they were his most vehement and staunchest supporters. How far did this treachery go?
Was it confined merely to this ship, or did it permeate the entire Legion? Surely, with the vessel crafted by the Mechanicum it had the sanction of Mars. With these questions running through his mind like a fever, Cestus could not believe what was happening. It did not feel real. From disbelief, anger and a desire for retribution was born. He could feel the ripples of shock and disbelief passing through the non-Astartes as the full horror of what they had witnessed sank in. He would show them that the true servants of the Emperor did not tolerate traitors and any act of heresy would be summarily dealt with.
Admiral Kaminska, you have the helm. Trying her best to maintain her cold composure in the face of such developments, she swivelled the command throne as the screens around her shifted to show every angle around the ship. If they stay on the Astartes ship, swing up in front of them. Give them a bloody good broadside up the nose, and scramble attack craft. Keep their gunners busy. In the name of Emperor! Watch my stern, admiral, and the Boundless will pick this swine apart! One of the tables on the bridge unfolded into a stellar map where holographic simu74 Ben Counter lacra were moved around to represent the relative positions of the ships in the fleet.
In this fell mood and with the dimmed battle stations gloom, he took on a feral aspect. There were a few raised eyebrows, but the Wolf Guard paid them no heed. Do not make us wait long. The Ultramarine sensed that the wolves of Russ did not relish such encounters. The fact that Brynngar was so eager to spill the blood of fellow Astartes only caused Cestus greater discomfort.
At war with our Legion brothers, the very idea scarcely seemed possible, yet it was happening. Cestus watched the space battle unfold with curious detachment and felt his sense of foreboding grow. The first torpedoes missed high, spiralling past the ship to be lost in the void. A handful detonated early, riddled with massive-calibre fragmentation shells from the defence turrets mounted along the flank of the Waning Moon.
Several found their mark just below the stern. Another streaked in with violent force, and then two more amidships. Useless energy shields flared black over the impact points as hull segments spun away from the ship, the torpedoes gouging their way through the outer armour. Embedded deep in the hull of the Waning Moon, the outer casing of each torpedo split with a super-heated incendiary and six smaller missiles drilled out from their parent casing. They were ringed with metallic teeth and bored through the superstructure of the strike cruiser as they spun. Drilling through the last vestiges of hull armour, the missiles emerged into the belly of the vessel and detonated with a powerful explosive charge.
With a deafening thoom-woosh of concussive heat pressure, the gun decks were ruined. Ratings and indentured workers died in droves, burned by the intense conflagration. Heaps of shells exploded in the firestorm, throwing lashes of flame and chunks of spiralling shrapnel through the decks.
Master Gunner Kytan was decapitated in the initial barrage, and dozens of gunnery crew met a similar fate as they scrambled for cover as the gun-decks became little more than an abattoir of charred corpses and hellish screaming. A destructive chain reaction boiled through the upper decks and into crew quarters. Stern-wards, detonations ripped into engineering sections, normally well shielded from direct hits, and ripped plasma conduits free to spew superheated fluid through access tunnels and coolant ducts.
Damage control crews, waiting at their muster points to douse fires and seal breaches, were torn asunder by the resultant carnage from amidships. Orderlies at triage posts barely had time to register the pandemonium on the gun decks before the blunt bullet of a warhead thundered through into the medicae deck and annihilated them in a flash of light and terror. The lights around the bridge were stuttered intermittently as the Waning registered power loss and damage across all decks.
This is Captain Cestus. The bridge of the Waning Moon was alive with transmissions from the rest of the ship: some calm, reporting peripheral damage to minor systems; others frantic, from plasma reactor seven and the gun decks, and there were those that were unintelligible through raging fire and screaming: the last words of men and women dying agonising deaths. Mhotep scrutinised the tactical holo-display above the command console. The Furious Abyss was changing course.
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It was suffering lance imparts from the Wrathful and was turning to present its heavily armoured prow to the aggressors. Mister Cronos, bring us across his bow. Gun decks port and starboard, prepare for a rolling broadside! The Word Bearer vessel had not reacted, and its blunt prow faced the damaged strike cruiser.
An insane crosshatch of crimson lance beams erupted between the two vessels with pyrotechnic intensity as they traded blows, silent shield flares indicating absorbed impacts. Errant bursts glittered past the Waning Moon as it opened up its gun ports and the snouts of massive ship-to-ship cannon emerged. Behind them, sweat-drenched ratings toiled to load the 78 Ben Counter enormous guns and avenge their dead.
They chanted in gun-cant to keep their rhythm strong, one refrain for hauling shells out of the hoppers behind them, another for ramming it home, and yet another for hauling the breech closed. The signal to fire reached them from the bridge. The rating gang leaders brought hammers down on firing pins and inside the ship, thunder screamed through the decks. Outside, jets of propellant and debris leapt the gap between the two ships. A split second later the shells impacted, explosive charges blasting deep craters into the enemy vessel.
Zadkiel was pleased. His ship, the city over which he ruled, was not governed by panic. Dozens of new contacts flared on the viewscreens, streaking from the launch bays of a ship identified as the Boundless. The Waning Moon and the Furious Abyss were locked in the Spiral Dance: the long, painful embrace that saw one ship circle another pumping broadsides into the enemy as it spun. Like everything else in space the Spiral Dance had its own mythology, and to a lifelong pilot of the Saturnine Fleet it meant inevitable doom and the spite of one ship lashing out at the enemy in its death throes.
It was desperation and tragedy, like a dying romance or a last stand against vast odds. The fighters, ten-man craft loaded with short-range rockets and cannon, streaked past the Waning Moon, the pilots saluting their fellow ship as custom dictated. They locked on to the Furious Abyss, the squadron leaders marking out targets on the immense dark red hull already pocked with lance scars and broadside craters from the battering the Wrathful had given it. Shield housings, sensor clusters and exhaust vents all lit up on the tactical display in a backwash of emerald light.
Targeting cogitators locked on and burned red. Silver Three, flown by Pilot Second-Class Carnagan Thaal, matched assigned approach vectors and built to full attack run speed. Through the shallow forward viewscreen, Thaal could see the Furious Abyss crisscrossed by laser battery barrage, its prow a flickering mass of smouldering metal. The port guns obeyed, the lascannon mounts swivelling into position. The starboard guns did not move. His copilot, Rugel, checked the array, but found nothing amiss. The co-pilot nodded and tore out the wires attaching him to his seat and the console in front of him, and swung around in his chair.
He started when he saw Weapons Officer Carina Scell standing there with her autopistol in her hand. Thaal was about to tell her to get back to her post and get the damn cannons locked on when Scell shot him in the face. She took Rugel in the chest, stepping forward to deliver the shot point-blank. Bleeding badly, the copilot scrabbled to get his sidearm out of its holster. Silver Three continued on its attack vector. Scell headed below decks to finish her work. The deck ran almost a third of the length of the Boundless to accommodate the numerous tactical consoles.
Captain Vorlov, his face awash in the reflected ochre glow of datascreens, paid it little heed as he prowled the ranks of fighter controllers. Attack craft were always lost. It was the way of the void. Vorlov continued his tour, preferring to witness firsthand the actions of his fighters rather than make do with the fragmented reports filtering through to the bridge.
The Boundless was a dedicated carrier for attack craft and his duties were here, listening to 81 Battle for the Abyss the fates of his fighter wings. His helms-mate was perfectly capable of keeping the ship running in his absence. What took down Silver Three? The pilot went off my screen. Possible crew casualties. He held one of his earphones tight against his head and winced as he tried to hear more clearly. The rest of you, report any further anomalies!
The Saturnine Fleet had the best small craft pilots this side of the galactic centre. I am the lord of the dawn. I am the beginning and the end. I am the Word. Reports of colleagues sabotaging engines or murdering crew, ranting paranoia and delusion spewed forth from the vox. His wings were in total disarray and the glorious attack run he had envisaged had failed utterly without the enemy firing off a shot. He had never even read about such a thing in the histories of the Saturnine Fleet.
Abort attack run and return to the Boundless! Fighters were already tumbling, glittering short-lived explosions as their colleagues shot them down. Others were spiralling off-course. The pathetic assault was in ruins. Zadkiel found the obvious toadying distasteful. Even so, this was a great moment, and he allowed himself to bask in it before returning to the vox.
Zadkiel ignored the impudence and sat back in his command throne to watch the damage control reports flicker by. It could soak up everything they could throw at it for hours before the shells penetrated live decks. Even then, only Legion menials would perish, the unaugmented humans pledged to die for Lorgar. Lances to full. He followed the blips of the escorts as they negotiated the graveyard of fighter craft, intent on helping the Waning Moon finish off the Furious.
Zadkiel allowed himself a thin smile. His face was ruddy with frustration as it glowered out of the viewscreen on the bridge of the Wrathful. Our crews turned on each other. This was a worrying development. All the Legions knew full well what had been decided on Nikaea, and the censure imposed by the Emperor on dabbling in the infernal powers of the warp and the use of sorcery. The Ultramarine turned to Admiral Kaminska. No ship, however massive, can withstand such a concentrated assault.
Cestus turned to regard Kaminska, seething at her command throne. The Fireblade twisted out of arcs of fire and sent a chain of incendiaries hammering down into the dorsal turret arrays.
Silent explosions blossomed and were swallowed by the void, leaving glittering sprays of wreckage like silver fountains. It had done this many times before. It was small, but it was agile and packed a harder punch than its size suggested. Below the two escorts, the last of the squadron, now just the Ferocious with the dramatic and sudden demise of the Fearless, was making its run along the underside of the massive vessel, pouring destruction into the ventral turrets.
All three remaining escorts came under fierce fire, but their shields and hull armour held, their speed too great to allow a significant number of defensive turrets to bear at once and combine their efforts. Captain Ulargo, at the helm of the Fireblade, commented to his fellow escort captains that the Word Bearers appeared to want to die. The void was sucking fire out of the prow, so it looked like the head of a fire-breathing monster made of smouldering metal.
A Seed on the Wind by Cat Rambo
Slowly, silently, the metal book cracked open and folded outwards. The massive bore of a gun emerged from behind it. Licks of blue flame ran over the ruined prow, ignited by the sheer force of the building energy. A white beam leapt from the Furious Abyss. At the same time thrusters kicked in, rotating the Furious a couple of degrees so that the short-lived beam played across the void in front of it.
It struck the Waning Moon just fore of the engines. Vaporised metal formed a billowing white cloud, like steam, condensing into a silver shower of re-solidified matter. Further explosions rippled across the Waning Moon in the wake of the crippling barrage, and the rear third of the strike cruiser was sheared clean off.
Even when seen through viewscreens it was carried out at extreme ranges, with laser battery salvoes taking seconds to crawl across the blackness. The battle had been raging for over an hour when the cannon on the prow of the Furious Abyss fired its maiden shot. When something happened quickly, it was a sudden, jarring occurrence that threw everything else out of kilter.
The slow ballet of a ship battle was broken by the discordant note of a rapid development, and all plans had to be re-founded in its wake. An event that could not be reacted to, that was over too quickly to change course or target, was a nightmare that many ship captains struggled to cope with. It was unfortunate for the captains of the Imperial fleet, then, that the death of the Waning Moon happened very quickly indeed.
Maybe a weapons discharge? Kaminska turned to face the Ultramarine, whose grim expression betrayed his emotions. In any event, it matters not. Until now, the fellow Ultramarine had been content to maintain his silence and keep his own council, but events were unfolding upon the bridge of the Wrathful and out in the wide, cold reaches of real space that he could not ignore. I am still your commanding officer. Antiges met it with a steely gaze of his own. Antiges saluted, turned on his heel and left the bridge.
Kaminska said nothing, only listened to what Cestus ordered next. All she saw was the massive enemy ship manoeuvring for a fresh assault against the Boundless. Get out of there. I suggest you do the same. Helmsmistress Venkmyer, relay orders to engineering to make ready for full evasive.
Massive feedback had ripped through every helm. Crewmen had died as torrents of energy had hammered through their scalp sockets and into their brains. Others were burning in the wreckage of exploded cogitators. Some of them had got out, but there was little indication that anywhere on the ship was better off. There was smoke everywhere, and all sound was swamped by the agonising din of screaming metal from the rear of the ship.
The blast doors had buckled under the extreme damage inflicted upon the stricken vessel and would not open. Mhotep had drawn his scimitar and cut through them with ease, forcing his way out of the bridge. Engineering was gone, simply gone. No order had been given to abandon ship. It flowed over Mhotep in a coruscating wave, spilling against his armour as it was repelled. Warning runes within his helmet lens display flashed intense heat readings. Ramket had no such protection, and his scream died in his burning mouth as the skin was seared from his body.
Smothered by fire, as if drowning, Ramket thundered against the deck in a heap of charred bone and flaming meat. Mhotep forced his way through the closest access portal and hauled it shut against the blaze. The fire had caught on the seals of his armour and he patted them out with his gauntleted palm. The injured were still lying in beds hooked up to respirators and life support cogitators.
The orderlies were gone; ship regulations made no provision for bringing invalids along when abandoning ship. They had given their lives to the Thousand Sons. They had known that they would die in service, one way or another. Mhotep ignored the dead and pressed on. Beyond the triage station were crew quarters. Men and women were running everywhere. Some were already dead, crushed by chunks of torn metal crashing through the ceiling or thrown into fiery rents in the deck plates.
In spite of the confusion, they stood aside instinctively to allow Mhotep clear passage. As an Astartes and their lord, his life was worth more man any of theirs. Mhotep remembered his name as Lothek. He was just one of the many thousands of souls about to burn in the void. Abruptly, the crew quarters split in two, one side hauled sharply upwards in a scream of twisting metal. Lothek went with it, smashed up into the ceiling and turned to a grisly red paste before his mouth had even formed a terrified scream.
Mhotep was staggered by the unexpected rupture and grabbed the frame of a door as air howled past him. He saw crewmen wrenched off their feet and dashed against torn deck plating that bent outwards like jagged, broken teeth. The tangled mass before him gave way and tumbled off into the void, over a dozen souls screaming silently as they went with it.
Their eyes widened in panic even as they iced over. They gasped out breaths, or held them too long, and ruptured their lungs, spewing out ragged plumes of blood. Hitting space, their bodies froze in spasm, limbs held at awkward angles as they drifted away into the star-pocked darkness. The scene was bizarrely tranquil as Mhotep regarded it, the swathe of black-clad nothing silent and endless where distant constellations glittered dully and the faded luminescence of far off suns left a lambent glow in the false night.
Gravity gave way as the structure was violated. Mhotep held on, armoured fingers making indentations in the metal, as the last gales of atmosphere hammered past. A corpse rolled and bumped against his armour, on its way to the void. It was Officer Ammon, his eyes red with burst veins. They were dead: thousands all dead. Mhotep felt some grim pride, knowing that, had they seen it would end this way, the crew would all still have given their lives to Magnus and the Thousand Sons. With no time for reverie, the Astartes pulled himself along the wall, finding handholds 93 Battle for the Abyss among shattered mosaics.
His armour was proof against the vacuum, but he could only survive for a limited time. The same was not true of anyone else aboard ship. Mhotep passed through the crew quarters. In the wake of its demise, the Waning Moon had become an eerily silent tomb of metal. As power relays failed, lights flashed intermittently, the illumination on some decks made only by crackling sparks. The Astartes shoved tangled bodies aside, faces locked in frozen grimaces, as he fought his way to a pair of blast doors and opened them. The air was gone beyond them, too, and more crewmen floated in the corridor leading down to the saviour pod deck.
It was a crewman who had emptied his lungs as the air boomed out and had, thus, managed to stay conscious. His eyes goggled madly. Mhotep swept him aside and carried on. The starboard saviour pods were not far away, but the Thousand Son had to take a short detour first. Passing through a final corridor, he reached the reinforced blast door of his sanctum. Incredibly, the chamber still retained power, operating on a heavily protected, separate system from the rest of the ship. Mhotep inputted the runic access protocol and the door slid open.
The oxygen that remained in the airtight sanctum started to pour out. Mhotep stepped over the threshold quickly and the door sealed shut behind him with a hiss of escaping pressure. Ignoring the damage done to the precious artefacts within the room, Mhotep went straight to the extant sarcophagus at the back of the sanctum. Opening it with controlled urgency, he retrieved the short wand-stave from inside it and secured the item in a compartment in his armour.
When Mhotep turned, about to 94 Ben Counter head for the saviour pods, he saw a figure crushed beneath a fallen cry-glass cabinet. Mhotep went to the ageing serf and knelt beside him. Mhotep nodded. Two had been launched and another was damaged beyond repair, speared through by a shaft of steel fallen from the ceiling. Mhotep pulled himself down into one of the remaining pods. Contrary to naval tradition, he would not be going down with his ship.
In his chambers, just prior to docking at Vangelis, he had seen a vision of himself standing upon the deck of the Wrathful. This was his destiny. The hand of fate would draw him here for some, as of yet, unknown purpose. Mhotep engaged the icon that would seal the saviour pod. It closed around him. There was room for three more crew, but no one was alive to fill it.
He hit the launch panel and explosive bolts threw the pod clear of the ship. He watched the Waning Moon turning above him as the pod spiralled away. The aft section had burned out and was just a black flaking husk, disappearing against the void. The main sec95 Battle for the Abyss tion of the ship was tearing itself apart. The fires were mostly out, starved of fuel and oxygen, and the Waning Moon was a skeleton collapsing into its component bones.
In the distance, thousands of sparks burst around the Furious Abyss, as if it were at the heart of a vast pyrotechnic display. He could subsume himself into the collective mindset of his battle-brothers, and as such was rarely troubled by emotions that did not serve any immediate purpose.
ecm-ukraine.com.ua/includes/hoqixysu/sayti-znakomstv-s-nomerami-telefonov-ukraina.php He was disturbed. He very much wanted to exact the hatred he felt on the Furious Abyss. He wanted to tear it apart with his bare hands. Perhaps, Mhotep told himself, if he was patient, he would find a way to do that. With the violent death of the Waning Moon, the remaining escort ships, the Ferox and the Fireblade, were locked in a deadly duel with the massive enemy vessel. Even with the Boundless in support and the Wrathful inbound they would not last long against the Word Bearer battleship.
The frigates would have to use their superior speed to endure while aid arrived. That advantage was summarily robbed with the appearance of crimsonwinged fighter squadrons issuing from the belly of the Furious Abyss in an angry swarm. It was impossible for such a ship, even one of its impressive size, to harbour fighter decks and the weapons system that had destroyed the Waning Moon. The Furious Abyss, however, was no ordinary ship. The destruction of the Waning Moon, appalling as it was, had at least given the escort ships the certainty that the Word Bearers would not have the resources for attack craft.
That was before the 96 Ben Counter launch bays had opened like steel gills down the flanks of the battleship, and twinkling blood-slick darts had shot out on columns of exhaust. Captain Ulargo stood in a corona of light on the bridge of the Fireblade. The rest of the bridge was drenched in darkness with only the grainy diodes of control consoles punctuating the gloom. Arms behind him, surrounded by the hololithic tactical display and with vox crackling, the terrible choreography of war played out with sickening inevitability. Fast attack craft, registering impacts.
Shutting down reactor two. Tiny explosions stitched over the hindquarters of the escort ship, ripping sprays of black debris from the engine housings. Turrets stammered back fire from the belly and sides of the Ferox, but for every fighter reduced to a bloom of plasma residue there were two more pouring fire into it. It was like a predator under attack from a swarm of stinging insects. The Ferox was far larger than any of the fighters, which were shaped like inverted Vs with their stabiliser wings swept forwards.
Individually its turrets could have tracked and vaporised any of the enemy before they got in range, but there were over fifty of them. In his entire career, he had never backed down from a fight. He hailed from the militaristic world of Argonan in Segmentum Tempestus, and it was not in his nature to capitulate. Clenching his fists, he bawled the order. One of the reactors on the embattled frigate melted down, its whole rear half flooding with plasma.
The forward compartments were sealed off quickly enough to save the crew, but the ship was dead in the void, only its momentum keeping it falling ponderously away from the upper hull of the Furious Abyss. The fighters circled it, flying in wide arcs around the dead ship and punishing it with incessant fire. Crew decks were breached and vented. Saviour pods began to launch as Lo Thulaga gave the order to abandon ship. The Furious Abyss wasted no time sending fighters to assassinate the saviour pods as they fled the stricken Ferox.
The Ferocious pulled a dramatic hard turn, ducking back towards the enemy battleship to fox the fighters lining up for their attack runs. The fighters closed and targeted the breach, volleys of las-fire boring molten fingers into the frigate. Somewhere amidst the bedlam the bridge was breached and the command crew died, incinerated by sprays of molten metal or frozen and suffocated as the void forced its way in. The remaining turrets on the Furious Abyss targeted the fleeing Fireblade, the last vessel of the escort.
Its vengeful ire was focused squarely on the Boundless. Her voice was choked. I must warn my lord Guilliman at once. When I say our efforts have failed, I mean utterly. The Astronomican is gone. How can it be gone? We are detecting warp storms that could be interfering. I will redouble our endeavours, but I fear they will be in vain. The Emperor must be warned. Our Legion is there, and our primarch; they are in imminent danger and the ones who must be warned. I do not doubt the strength of our battle-brothers and the fleet above Macragge is formidable, as are its ground defences, but there is something about this ship… What if it is merely the harbinger of something much worse, something that can be a very real threat to Guilliman?
Courage and honour, Antiges. His brother-captain had been right thus far, and suddenly Antiges felt shamed that his dogged pragmatism had so blinded him to that truth. Cestus was about to give his assent when Helms-mate Kant delivered a report from the sensorium. Another volley of torpedoes sailed out from the Furious Abyss, this time in a tight corkscrew like a pack of predators arrowing in on the prey instead of spread out in a fan. High explosives tipped the torpedo formation. They penetrated shields and used up the first volleys of turret fire from the Boundless. The main body of the torpedoes were the same kind of boreheader cluster munitions that had ripped into the Waning Moon.
A few magnetic pulse torpedoes were part of the volley, too. They ripped through the sensors of the Boundless and blinded it. There was no longer any need to conceal the full arsenal of the Furious Abyss. Cluster explosions, like flowers of fire, blossomed down one flank of the Boundless.
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Shock waves rippled through the fighter bays, throwing attack craft aside like boats on a wave. Refuelling tanks exploded, their blooms lost in the torrents of flame that followed the first impacts. Fighter crews that had survived the madness of the attack runs were rewarded by being shredded by shrapnel or drowned in fire. The flank of the Boundless was chewed away as if it were ageing and decaying at an impossible rate, holes opening up and metal blackening and twisting to finally flake away like desiccated flesh.
The final torpedo wave had single warheads that forced enormous bullets of exotic metals at impossible speeds. They shot like lances from their housings, shrieking right through the Boundless and emerging from the other side, sowing secondary explosions Battle for the Abyss of ignited fuel and vented oxygen, transfixing the carrier like spears of light. Finally, the Furious Abyss took up position at medium range from the Imperial ship. It paused, as if observing the wracked vessel, sizing up the quarry one last time before the kill. The plasma lance emerged, the energy building up and the barrel glowing.
The surviving crew of the Boundless knew what was coming, but all their control systems were shot through. A few thrusters sputtered into life as the Boundless tried desperately to limp away from its would-be executioner, but the carrier was too big and badly wounded. The plasma lance fired. It hit the Boundless amidships, at enough of an angle to rip through to the plasma reactors. The entire vessel glowed, the heat of the fusing plasma conducted through its structure and hull.
Zadkiel observed the tactical display. We risk far more tarrying here to hunt them down. I will be inspecting the supplicants in the lower decks. Ensure Novice Ultis attends. The entire bridge was drenched in shadow. The crew was stunned into sudden silence and, for a fraction of a second, stillness, as they struggled to comprehend what they had witnessed. Kaminska was as quiet as the ship. She gripped the arms of her command throne tightly. Vorlov had been her friend.
Mhotep might be injured and in need of an apothecary. Instruct Brynngar to do the same on my authority. Bring Saphrax and the Legion captains with you. Brynngar and Skraal joined them, feral belligerence and unfettered wrath increasing the already knife-edge tension. With this many Astartes present, the bridge of the Wrathful felt very small. Saphrax wore his ceremonial honour guard armour, the gold of his armour plates glinting dully. Skraal, on the other hand, made do with little in the way of decoration. Cestus could not help noticing the kill-tallies on his chainaxe, bolt pistol and armour plates: a testament to violence.
Killing was a matter of pride for the World Eaters and Skraal had several names etched on his shoulder pad, around the stylised devoured planet symbol of his Legion. We are to enter the empyrean and give chase to the Word Bearers. But then, as the spectator of the picture derives his impression of grandeur or beauty, not from studying the science of optics, but from certain instincts and powers of body and mind, which he holds in common with the humblest of our race; so we contend that a man understands his Bible best, not from having studied an artificial vocabulary of mental laws, but from those eternal feelings of conscience and obligation, of which God implants the seeds in all human bosoms, at their very birth.
If metaphysics be so explained as to mean these broad laws of our nature, then we say it is best found in books where it has been least sought. It is found in the Bible itself; in Homer; in Euripides and Demosthenes; in Cicero; in Shakspeare; in Burke; in all those noble geniuses, who were too intent on things to deceive themselves with shadows. How can a man place much confidence in systems, which none but their authors have ever understood, which no two proselytes have even agreed in explaining alike; which have been crushed before the moth; which have passed away like the morning cloud and early dew; and which, by ambiguities and falsehoods steal away our faith from God, and place it on man.
It is really amusing to see how some of the acutest men have hailed, as eternal truth, some newsprung lights of mental science, which, while they were yet speaking, have vanished away. Let any man read the history of metaphysics for one century, and have confidence in it, if he can. The mind and its laws are best seen, when it is operating on something else beside itself. It always eludes the searcher's eye, when it is made the direct object of contemplation. The rainbow when it shines in the Heavens, says nothing of the primary colours; but it gives in its mingled and silent light, a better impression of its own nature, than all the treatises on optics that were ever written.
A science which divides the mind into faculties; which considers them in their separation; which makes one acton another, without considering the reciprocal action of all; and finally forgets that their separation and union is not marked by any definite lines;— such a science, call it what you will, and pursue it as far as you please, will never be a safe guide to the knowledge of human nature, and never ought to come for a moment in competition with the word of God.
Our preacher recommends to his audience, under his second head, steadiness of purpose, independence, caution, and prudence; a conciliatory spirit, a clear exhibition of the doctrines of the gospel; a careful attention to pastoral duties; increasing zeal and activity, prayer, and mutual forbearance, and humble and devoted piety. These virtues are suitable to all times and places, and some of them, perhaps, are peculiarly demanded by the present condition of the churches. A logician might regard it as a fault that all the second head does not grow, as might be expected, out of the first.
But the duties displayed are recommended with earnestness, simplicity and feeling. In the following paragraph the preacher pointed out a very subtle deception, which we suspect, deserves the notice of those, who think that all the danger is on one side. Nothing short of this can sec are the pastors of our churches from becoming a prey to some of those evils which have been remarked as characteristic of our times. To the naturally proud heart of the unsanctified pastor, nothing can be more hazardous than the spirit of excitement and proneness to extremes which we have observed as among the peculiarities of our times.
It finds a ready admission into his unholy bosom, and kindles there a flame of animal enthusiasm which urges him on to unrestrained irregularities and extravagance. Nor is the love of novelty and innovation which we have remarked as characteristic of our times, less dangerous to the unsanctified pastor. It finds in him that proneness to 'lean to his own understanding,' and that desire to be 'wise above what is written,' so congenial to the natural heart.
And my conviction is daily strengthened that nothing short of the most humble and fervent piety, will secure us from that spirit of innovation and change which threatens the peace of our churches. In recommending independence of mind to the clergy, our author has hit upon a cause of the prevailing evils of the day, deserving serious attention.
When a young man is settled in the ministry, he finds two classes of hearers, whose errours he is to encounter, and two crosses, which he must take up. The first is the most obvious, and it is generally borne with a considerable share of fortitude and patience. He must first meet the men of the world—men who respect the name of religion, and little more; who start at its doctrines and dread its light; men who reverence the forms of religion, but have never probably felt its vital power on their hearts.
Such men, conformed to the world themselves, want their minister to be very prudent and cautious. They are afraid of his fidelity and afraid of his zeal; and their constant cry to him is, like that of the royal critic of old, Sufflaminardus — put on your drag chain. In the course of a few years, however, many of these men become converted to the gospel, and accustomed to its stimulating truths. There is generated now another taste, —a morbid love of the more exciting parts of religion, a super-evangelical taste, a relish for high truths and high measures, a scorn of plain truth and humble morality—in short, a demand for what our author expressively calls the high pressure system.
The minister finds the tide has changed under him; the current is running in a new direction; and it requires all his independence,—his fears of God and his superiority to the fears of man, to induce him to stem it. His people demand, not errour, but half the truth; and precisely that half of which they stand least in need. This is the time which tries the pastor's soul. He is called to take up the new cross, and face a popular atmosphere which is tinged with all the red clouds, and glittering rainbows, and rushing winds of a seeming religion.
The errours of the day appear so sacred; they come from such an unsuspected quarter, and they steal on the mind by such treacherous gradations; that some are thoroughly deceived.