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The sound of ceramite boots marching down the tunnel to the Death Warriors hidden base echoed off the rock walls. The tunnel sloped gradually downward with nothing to light the path for the Disciples of Twilight, they were surrounded by rock walls and darkness. Only two Marines were able to march side by side in the narrow confines.
Gradually the tunnel widened as the Disciples of Twilight continued their advance. After five miles of walking the floor had also begun to level out.
After hours of walking, the strike force saw a pair of plasteel doors before them. The doors were tall enough to walk an Imperial Knight through and wide enough as well. Parted slightly the doors were open and upon the face of the doors was the chapter symbol of the Death Warriors, an eyeless skull upon a rounded shield.
Clawstrike, Aspiring Champion of Vengeance Squad, opened his vox to the command channel saying, “Our auspex sweeps are detecting nothing.”
Warforce signaled his acknowledgement through his helmet’s command display. Raising his arms up to his side, Warforce accepted the power of the warp, becoming a conduit. His helmet’s eye lenses began glowing a vibrant green as he cast his warp-sense outward, searching for signs of life beyond the enormous doors before him. Nothing.
“Let us proceed, ” commanded Warforce to the squad leaders.
The interior of the base looked much like the tunnel leading in, rough rock walls and a smoothed stone floor. It was essentially a very large cave lit by barely functional overhead lights that flickered every few seconds. The base was sparse with a few consoles and computer stations spread around. At the back of the large room were two unmarked metal doors. With a signal from Warforce the strike force split up and each went to investigate what lay beyond the doors.
Looking around the room Warforce and his team had entered it was obvious the intent of the chamber. Unlike the proceeding room, this room’s walls were bare metal and not rock. The walls were lined with shelves and vats filled with oddly colored liquid, organs floating within. The center of the room had numerous metal tables with surgical tools laid atop them. It was an apothecarium.
Dust clung to everything in the room and appeared to not have been used in quite some time. Warforce walked over to one of the glass vats and wiped the layer of dust from the surface. Inside floated a Maintainer, the smaller secondary heart implanted into Space Marines.
A moment later Warforce’s vox chimed, “Sir. We’ve found the gene-seed.”
Warforce left the apothecarium and entered the second room off the base’s main chamber. Down the center of the room ran a pathway with each side of the path lined with large white boxy machines. Assorted control panels covered the face of the machines with buttons, switches and indicator lights. A glass door was centered on each machine and looking in Warforce could see their prize, the gene-seed they sought.
With the gene-seed secured, the Disciples of Twilight had begun their return to the surface. Warforce had informed Grimtech of the recovery and that they were en-route.
Suddenly a humming noise began to resonate in the passage. A moment later two heavy bolters emerged from each side of the tunnel ahead of the Marines. Before the strike force could react the heavy bolters opened fire. The large caliber rounds chewed into the front rank of the Disciples. Most of those who were struck either fell to the rocky floor dead or seriously wounded.
The quiet whir of plasma guns charging up could be heard before the sudden flash of green and blue as the super-heated rounds were fired at the heavy bolters. Each plasma round found its mark and in a few seconds the heavy bolters were a mass of melted metal, rendered completely useless.
While the fallen Marines were being attended to, Clawstrike opened his vox to the command channel saying, “Our auspex sweeps have detected nothing until those damn heavy bolters sprang to life.”
“I believe this base has fallen into a hibernation mode in the absence of the Death Warriors with power being shut off to non-essential equipment. Our presence in the base must have triggered a defense response and powered up the turrets,” responded Warforce.
Warforce walked up to the front of the group to check on his fallen brothers. Two Marines were clearly dead, their armor rent open in many spots and their life blood pooling around their bodies. Four other Marines remained alive but would likely not live for very long even if they had time to give them proper medical treatment.
One of the injured Marines spoke, “Sir. Just leave me here and continue on. The mission comes first and nobody should be slowed down on my account.”
The other three wounded Marines nodded their heads in agreement.
As reluctant as Warforce was to leave any brother behind, he had to agree. Getting out of the Death Warrior’s base with the secured gene-seed was of the utmost importance. If only one Marine remained alive to bring the gene-seed out and back to Forlorn, their base planet, then the cost would be worth it.
The Disciples of Twilight continued on. Twice more they encountered automated defense weaponry but they were ready for it. The tell-tale hum of power surging to the weapons preceded their exposure and each time the heavy and special weapons of the Disciples destroyed the defenses.
With the Disciples of Twilight strike force assembled in full again they had marched back to their transport ship through the rugged mountain terrain. No defenders had come to the aid of the Imperial Guard that they had dispatched. No further defenses had been encountered. It was eerily quiet and that did not sit well with Warforce.
The Disciples were coming down from the mountain pass into the open area where their ship was when Warforce could feel the power of the warp beginning to materialize.
“To arms!” exclaimed Warforce just as the Immaterium opened up before the team.
Swirling colors of reds and purples danced in the air before the Disciples, between their position and their ship. It was like a raging fire of energy, lashing back and forth and growing in size with each passing second. A blackness beyond the darkest of nights formed within the center of the dancing colors, defying all light. Then, they stepped forth. Daemons.
Bolters immediately started pouring fire into the daemons stepping through the warp portal. The daemons were children of Tzeentch with long arms ending in mouths full of sharp teeth and daemonic flames flickering from those mouths. As bolt rounds struck the daemons, in what would be a fatal wound to a mortal, the daemons disappeared, returning to the warp. Despite the fire power of the Marines the daemons continued to pour from the rift.
The Disciples had formed up in a defensive semi-circle with the Marines carrying the gene-seed centered within, as well as Warforce, and their backs were to the mountains. Grimtech and his daemonic machine cadre anchored the defensive formation, pouring fire into the approaching daemons and waiting for the time bring the fight forward.
The front rank of Marines were consumed in the flickering fire of the daemons before them. Their power armor could only resist so much heat before system failures were imminent and many simply fell where they stood, the heat inside their armor having reached fatal levels.
As Warforce fired his bolt pistol into the horde of daemons he kept an eye on the warp rift. He knew this was just the vanguard and that the leader would soon step forth and take its place in the battle. Warforce hoped he was wrong but was proven correct when a Daemon Prince flew out of the portal, it’s huge feathered wings sounding like thunder with each flap.
“Grimtech. We need to get the gene-seed out of here. Take your pets and blow a hole through the daemons’ line. We will follow in your wake,” voxed Warforce.
Grimtech unleashed the daemon engines. The Maulerfiend ran forward and bowled into the daemons trying to break through the front rank of Marines. Helbrutes and the Defiler followed the Maulerfiend’s lead, swinging their power fists to create gaps in the enemy’s formation.
While the Disciples were following in the wake of the daemon engines, the Daemon Prince continued to fly as it launched psychic attacks on the force. Blue and purple daemonic flames were randomly erupting from the ground, immediately reducing any Marine unfortunate enough to be underneath it as it sprang to life to charred bone and melted armor. The Prince hurled flickering balls of psychic energy into their ranks. Those hit by the powerful orbs were thrown off their feet with their armor a smoking ruin where they were struck.
Once the daemon engines reached the ship Grimtech commanded them to turn around and charge back to cover the retreat of the force.
The transport ship was powered up and waiting for the remainder of the Marines to board. Those wounded and unable to fight were carried or dragged into the ship. Anyone capable of standing and fighting did just that, guarding the ship’s entry ramp while the rest of their team continued to fall back.
With a force strong enough to shake the ground, the Daemon Prince landed behind the Disciples of Twilight. Before the Prince could take one step forward Warforce lashed out with a beam of psychic power, blasting the Prince squarely in its chest. The warp-forged armor held against the attack, leaving behind only a scorch mark. The strength of the blow had staggered the Daemon Prince however. As the Prince was trying to recover from blast, Warforce brought both of his hands out to his sides and slammed them together before himself. A wall of energy emanated out from his clasped hands, moving like a raging ocean wave but moving much faster. Once the wave reached the monstrous Daemon Prince it enveloped it, surrounding it completely and enclosing it. Roaring in frustration the Prince lashed at the shield, striking it with its powerful fists but the shield would not yield.
Warforce turned towards the ship and sprinted. When he was close to the ship he voxed the pilot, “Go, go!”
The ship’s engines roared to life, buffeting the ground with a burst backwash. The entry ramp was beginning to lift shut when Warforce leapt for it, his fingers gripping the lip of the ramp. The ramp continued to close and Warforce pulled himself up, the ramp nearly vertical. With one last effort he pulled his body over the ramp’s lip and fell into the bay, landing with a dull thud as his power armor met the metal decking.
Grimtech ran over to Warforce and extended a hand to help his brother up. Warforce accepted the offered hand and rose to his feet.
“What do you expect that was about?” asked Grimtech, referring to the appearance of Tzeentch’s minions.
In a sombre tone Warforce replied, “I suspect we will eventually find out.”
Later, when Imperial forces arrived at the deserted Death Warrior’s base, they found nothing to indicate that the Disciples of Twilight were ever there. The bodies of the slain, both Imperial Guard and Marine, were gone. Not a drip of blood was left behind and shell casings from bolters were not present. It was as though the Disciples of Twilight were never there and a battle had not been fought.
There it is, the final chapter in this particular series. Hopefully those who took the time to read these enjoyed them. This process has definitely reinvigorated my interest in doing creative writing.
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Into the Unknown: Salvation (Part 3 – Conclusion)
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