+++Deathwatch Code Omega-Black : Operation Valkyrie+++
Tantalus, Orpheus Salient, Jericho Reach
Officer in Command – Inquisitor Vownus Kade, Ordo Xenos
You descend on wings of fire towards the tormented surface of a dying world.
Outside, the armoured ceramite of your drop pod burns like a falling star. Within the thunderous, claustrophobic hold, the assault on your senses and the agonies of the crushing G-force exerted on your body is almost unbearable, and would surely kill an ordinary man. But you are no ordinary men who endure this fiery trial – you are Space Marines, the Emperor’s chosen Angels of Death.
Within your mind, you recall the mission briefing, replaying it with perfect clarity…
The Jericho Reach is a damned stretch of stars drowned in a bloody tide of war. This once-Imperial domain is beset on all sides by the terrors of the xenos and the evil of dark-hearted men.
You left Watch Fortress Erioch under an emergency code Omega-Black, your Watch Captain Prascus sanctioning you into the service of Inquisitor Vownus Kade of the Ordo Xenos and his cadre of Throne Agents.
Having hurriedly boarded the Deathwatch frigate Thunder’s Word you have rapidly travelled to the part of the Reach known as the Orpheus Salient. Cast amid its war-torn and threatened worlds is the Industrial moon of Tantalus in the embattled Castobel system. For more than five solar months now, the Castobel system has come under the assault of the all-devouring Tyranid menace, and Tantalus is no exception. While the fate of the hive world of Castobel, that gives the star system its name, hangs in the balance still, Tantalus has not been so fortunate, and the outlying colony, which now spins beneath you, is in its final death throes.
In the cramped, dim confines of the frigate’s communication room, Inquisitor Kade conducted your mission briefing.
“With the battle for Tantalus lost, and the jaws of the Tyranids closing inexorably around this moon, the few survivors that remain are desperately caught between a doomed struggle to survive and desperate hopes of escape. But, the lives of all that remain can now be measured in no more than hours. However, the fall of Tantalus and the horrific deaths of its inhabitants may not have been entirely in vain – a small Adeptus Mechanicus Biologis contingent was present studying local life on Tantalus at the time of the first attack. Stranded on Tantalus, they took the opportunity to turn their unflinching gaze upon the monstrous life forms that came to devour the world. Their priceless data on the bio-forms and attack-patterns of Hive Fleet Dagon, bought at the sacrifice of most of the Magos own lives, may yet prove invaluable to the war in the Orpheus Salient and must be claimed by the Imperium, whatever the cost.
For Tantalus, the end has come very abruptly. The battle was tipped in the Tyranid’s favour by the appearance of one of their bio-ships bringing heavy reinforcements in orbit around the industrial moon. As fighting against the vanguard organisms was already desperate below , the bio-ship was able to encroach almost unopposed, and unleashed wave after wave of spore pods heavy with monstrous predator-forms and lethal parasites which have already slaughtered the last serious Imperial resistance and begun to poison and consume Tantalus’ biosphere. Unable to break through the Tyranid assault and escape off-world , the shuttle carrying the last member of the Mechanicus team, Magos Vyakai, fled for Tantalus’ southern polar regions that had not been over-run thus far. We were due to rendezvous with the Magos’ escape craft. Unfortunately it was brought down by the Tyranids a few dozen kilometres short of the relative safety of the polar ice fields, crashing near a promethium extraction complex designated Pyroclast-Gamma-9. Since the shuttle’s crash landing, fragmented transmissions from the Magos indicate both his personal survival and that of the vital datacore he is carrying. This is the first transmission we received from the moon’s surface three hours ago.”
An icy, harsh voice barked from the vox-net through howling static :
“+++Attention Deathwatch vessel Thunder’s Word. This is Magos Biologis Zardos Vyakai. My conveyance has been fatally damaged and forced to crash-land en-route to rendezvous zone Epsilon. I survive, the datacore survives. I require immediate extraction from this location. The swarm approaches, crash site unsafe. I will seek shelter nearby with my companions until your arrival. The datacore must survive and be retrieved. Location Encarta follows. I will set this message to repeat as long as the anima endures. Message ends+++” The voice cut off and was followed by a rapid chatter of sacred binary code.
“We received the following broadcast just minutes ago” the Inquisitor continues.
“+++The swarm, five hours and counting. Five hours until the whole area is swept clear of life under an unholy tide of fang, venom and claw. Five hours. Five hours and counting+++”
Your mind focuses on the goals of your mission as set-out by the Inquisitor.
- “You must retrieve the datacore belonging to the Magos Biologis Vyakai, and, if possible, extract the Magos himself. The datacore contains vital data on the Tyranid organisms of Hive Splinter-Fleet Dagon.”
- “In approximately five hours, the main Tyranid swarm will reach the area. The chances of survival of anyone caught on the ground at that time are negligible.”
- “Once the objective is achieved, or time runs out, your Kill-team must gain high ground and activate your extraction beacons. A specially modified Thunderhawk will brave the tempest in the atmosphere and retrieve you.”
- “Tyranid harbinger and vanguard organisms are expected to be in the area already – they are hazardous in the extreme.”
- “Imperial survivors may be in the area, either as remnants of the refinery’s personnel, or others fleeing ahead of the swarm. They should be considered expendable, the Emperor have mercy upon their souls.”
- “We have received word from the Officio Assassinorum that one of their agents was operational on Tantalus before the attack. They will not, however, divulge ‘why’. Encrypted code has been sent to their operative to divert them to Pyroclast-Gamma-9, if they are still alive. They have been instructed to defer to your command. Extract them with you, but do not trust them.”
- “You will be equipped with your standard wargear plus any that you requisitioned before leaving Erioch. In addition I have secured for you a double load for your main weapon. You will also possess a map-image of the area viewed from orbit just after the crash, pin-pointing the crash site. You will also be provided with a one-use emergency beacon transmitter to enable your retrieval.”
- “The Deathwatch frigate Thunder’s Word is holding a perilous orbit above the area, evading detection by Tyranid destructor organisms, and will remain so until extraction is required, when it will break cover to effect a rescue.”
- “Your insertion will be via drop pod fired from high orbit.”
“Mechanicus Brother Serverus will be monitoring all broadcasts from the moon’s surface for the duration of the mission. Insertion is to commence in five minutes.” The Inquistor paused for a moment, fixing you with his steely gaze. “May the Emperor protect you. Dismissed”
Primary Objective(s) : Retrieve the Magos’ Datacore
Secondary Objective(s) : Rescue Magos Vyakai. Extract the Officio Assassinorum Operative if present.
Tertiary Objective(s) : Other Targets of Opportunity / Personal Goals.
+++Estimated Time Remaining – 05:00+++
The retro-thrusters hammer into you like a blow from an enraged god. The drop pod doors blast open and you spring forth from your crash harness, power armour systems already engaged, auto senses tracking, weapons in hand. The daylight wanes, casting long shadows in the twilight. A shrill wind drives a wet snow across the rocky, debris strewn landscape, turning the ground underfoot into a treacherous, muddy slush. A myriad of rusted pipelines, industrial buildings, storage crates and heavy iron-black machinery litter the area all around. Strings of battered lumen glodes swing crazily in the wind, their sickly orange light doing little to penetrate the gloom. The stark, pre-fab buildings in view appear dark and foreboding, their walls running slick with the chill arctic sleet. Yet while the site of Pyroclast-Gamma-9 is grand in scale, oddly, nothing stirs.
While the skies to the polar north are a harsh icy grey, the southern horizon has already been swallowed by a rolling purple-black maelstrom, shot through with veins of cankerous yellow as the atmosphere of the moon itself is being devoured by the Tyranid spores.
A short distance to the west, a billowing cloud of acrid smoke rises from a jagged scar torn into the landscape, indicating where the Magos’ craft made impact. You grunt with acknowledgement at the skill of the Thunder’s Word gunnery crew for landing your drop pod on target.
Your suit’s auspex systems enhance the view in your HUD, and through the relentless icy sleet you can make out the squat, foreboding structures of the main refinery complex to the southeast, perched atop a steep rocky escarpment. A mag-train line runs from a dock near the refinery out to the west, cutting through the bleak industrial landscape.
A comms uplink tower standing atop a craggy ridge far to the west reaches towards the frigid sky.
Before it, a wide ravine littered with the remnants of earlier excavations cuts westwards through the rock.
To the south, what appears to be a security bunker sits brooding in the fading light.
Through your suit’s filters you detect two pervading scents on the bitterly cold air: burning chemicals and human blood.
As your senses become attuned to your surroundings, you hear the familiar sounds of gunfire carried on the wind. It appears to be coming from the ravine to the west. Rymdvarg’s keen senses identify it as probable las-gun fire.
As you await Brother-Sergeant Marcus’ orders, Rymdvarg becomes aware of several faint, almost undetectable bursts of static on his vox link
//Fear denies Faith/
+++Estimated Time Remaining – 04:58+++
With your suit’s auto-senses scanning the shadows for unseen assailants you make a tactical advance through the maze of rusted pipe-farms and dull ferro-crete blockhouses. The squad moves quickly, and by the numbers. Two battle-brothers take cover and provide overwatch whilst the third bounds forward through the freezing puddles of slush, before taking cover once more to watch for enemies.
Brother-Sergeant Aurelius calls a momentary halt as the squad reaches the edge of an open expanse littered with decaying industrial detritus. He signals with a clenched fist, raising it in the air. The squad instantly responds to his unspoken command, seeking cover and awaiting his order.
Brother Rafen scans the snow swept shadows from the hulk of a rusted landcrawler chassis, his bolt pistol raised and vigilant, its machine spirit sending ammunition reports to his HUD in sacred binary script. The distant sounds of las fire to the west, now drowned out by the relentless wind, have galvanised the Blackshield for battle.
Brother Rymdvarg peers from behind a stack of rusting promethium barrels, unslinging his magnoculars and scanning their surroundings. Through the eerie green glow of the rangefinder he makes out a huge rent in the earth several hundred metres to the west, a smouldering wreck at the northerly end pin-points the location of the crash-site. Further to the north, several emergency strobe lights shine forth from the walls of an ominous looking plasticrete building while a klaxon wails out a shrill alarm. A grime-encrusted sign attached to a perimieter chain-link fence reads ‘Labour Internment Facility Epsilon 4’. The spacewolf’s keen senses detect muffled screams and shouts echoing from within the darkened halls, and the scent of blood is on the air.
Satisfied that no xenos threats are in the vicinity, the Brother-Sergeant signals the advance once more, expertly directing the squad towards the crash-site.
As the squad moves across the broken landscape, Brother Rymdvarg is once again aware of several short bursts of static on his vox. It strikes him that they may be being made deliberately.
The jagged scar the crash has left in the scorched black earth is visible through the driving sleet long before you come to the broken body of the shuttlecraft itself. Once a mighty machine, the spearhead-shaped Kestral-class interplanetary lighter lies shattered against a rutted bank of earth ramped up by its crash-landing. Its back is broken and its hull plating torn apart like paper. Despite the ruin of the wreckage, it is apparent that the ship’s reactor and fuel lines did not rupture on impact, for otherwise there would be nothing left here but a glowing crater. The doors in the rear armoured prow compartment hang open where their emergency explosive bolts have been loosed for the occupants to escape, but there is no sign of them or any other life.
//Purge the Unclean/
+++Estimated Time Remaining – 04:30+++
As the Squad of veterans nears the shuttlecraft, Brother Rymdvarg pauses momentarily, tapping at the side of his helmet.
“Sergeant” he rumbles, his already deep gravelly voice made even more menacing by the ancient suit of revered armour. “Are you catching these static bursts on the vox? It seems unusual brother… as if someone is trying to interfere with communications…”
“I detect no communication anomalies Brother” the sergeant replies, shooting a questioning look at the Runepriest. “Squad, hold position”.
“Thunder’s Word, this is Sergeant Aurelius. Brother Rymdvarg is experiencing interference on his communications channels. Please scan all vox frequencies and advise”. A moment later the reply comes through in a burst of static.
“…under’s Word…..is…Serverus…monitoring all channels…wait. Out”
“Emperor damn it, the spore cloud must be weakening the signal”, Aurelius curses aloud. Not wishing to remain in the open, he nods to the Blackshield. “Brother Rafen, check the craft for anything that indicates the whereabouts of the Magos. Brother Rymdvarg, provide close support. I will keep overwatch from a vantage point”. The sergeant is already moving as he gives the order, his extensive knowledge of defensive doctrine and codex patterns identifying a suitably strategic position atop the far bank of the scar.
“Yes Brother, Emperor guide your aim” comes Rafen’s reply as he splashes through the chemical sludge cautiously towards the shuttle’s rear hatch. Holstering his bolt pistol, he unslings his Astartes shotgun, whispering a prayer to Sanguinius as he checks chamber.
As Brother Rafen edges towards the rear doors, Rymdvarg intones a silent prayer to the God Emperor and briefly touches his wolf tooth necklace before collecting his thoughts. Just as he is about to stretch out with his mind, Rafen, now paused momentarily beside the blast torn doorway, speaks tersely into his vox.
“Wolf brother, wait at the front of the craft to stop anyone or anything fleeing through the control compartment”. With a growl at the Blackshield’s interruption, Rymdvarg comes back to the here and now and jogs round to the front of the shattered remains of the shuttle, bolter raised to his shoulder, constantly scanning for even the slightest movement.
Sergeant Aurelius hits the tripod release on his heavy bolter, slamming the cumbersome weapon into the sodden ground atop the bank. Leaning in against the slick mud he stares down the targeting reticule. His position gives good visibility across the debris strewn ground to the west, and allows good channels for enfilading fire against anything to emerge from the ravine should it be required.
Silently, and with shotgun raised, Rafen edges through the rent doorway, the lighter’s badly twisted frame forcing the hulking marine to stoop in the dark, claustrophobic interior. He scans to either side for any signs of life, checking the ceiling, as he moves cautiously through the innards of the torn ship. Within the central hold the shredded remains of several servitors lay scattered, pulverised as the shuttle started to come apart. Pushing deeper into the craft, the Blackshield makes a grisly discovery in the control compartment. The battered and torn bodies of three crewmen and the pilot, apparently killed by the violence of the impact lay motionless, still held to their seats by safety harnesses. The compartment around them is littered with body parts and slick with gore.
Several control compartments have been prised open, and neat bundles of wires appear to have been reconnected between various electrical components indicating that various post-crash modifications have been made to the shuttle’s systems. The purpose of the rig’s alteration is unclean to Rafen, who cares not for the rites and unctions of the Cult Mechanicus. He is surprised though, to see that the power onboard the wreck appears to have been shutdown properly before the craft has been abbandoned. The Blackshield lifts the pilot’s remaining limp arm slowly with his shotgun as he gives his report “Shuttle is clear. Crew and Servitors dead. No Magos”
“Received.” Comes the sergeant’s reply. “Squad form up and assume defence pattern Hydra”
“Affirmative”, growls Rymdvarg. After taking up a defensive position and scanning around to ensure no enemy presence, he once more stretches out his mind attempting to detect other brainwaves. But with no target in sight upon which to focus his powers, the restless wolf is unable to ascertain anything of tactical import.
//Innocence Proves Nothing/
+++Estimated Time Remaining – 04:21+++
“Brother-Sergeant”, Rafen runs his armoured fingers over the jumble of wires stretched across the command compartment as he opens vox communication. “The systems here have been modified, beyond my limited comprehension. Can you patch a vid-link to Mechanicus Brother Serverus, he may have some idea…” As the Blackshield turns in the cramped quarters, he inadvertently knocks a stack of jumbled dataslates with one of his knee-pads, scattering them with a crash across the wreckage strewn metallic floor. Several of the slates are activated by the impact, their cracked, flickering displays casting a sickly green light over the torn, bleeding bodies of the dead crewmen. Rafen kneels and examines them. The glowing text is distorted and appears to be made up of a random sequence of numbers, letters and other Mechanicus symbols, as if it were being protected from unauthorised eyes. However, even though the content is confusing, and the damaged displays jump and flicker, the frowning marine is able to make out several words in gothic, and his growing concern at their implication creases his scarred face intensely; ‘Acheros’, ‘Hadex’, ‘Erioch’, ‘Omega’… ‘Exterminatus’..
“I will transmit the images to the Thunder’s Word” Marcus’ crackling voice sounds in his ear, “but communications are suffering from increased levels of interference. Complete your sweep Brother and fall in, defence pattern Hydra. Brother Rymdvarg, see if you can determine the direction the Magos went.”
The crackle in his vox breaks Brother Rymdvarg’s revere, and he acknowledges communication with the squad leader.
“Received. Sweeping the area now. Out” he growls, before adding, “Brother Rafen. Maintain position at the craft exit so as not to disturb the area. Out.”
After checking the suits readout and ascertaining that the air is breathable, Rymdvarg removes his helmet to let his enhanced wolf-like instincts and senses take over. A flood of smells, sounds and sights flood over him. He crinkles his yellow wolf eyes against the fading sun and inhales deeply, a wry smile creases his face as he bites back the urge to howl with pleasure. Slinging his boltgun he then crouches in the clinging mud, scanning the ground and proceeds to methodically work his way around the craft attempting to find traces left behind by the Magos’ exit. The tracking is made difficult by the lack of visibility due to the poor light and relentless sleet, and is worsened still by the ground conditions underfoot, a churned mix of chemical-thick mud, broken rocks, shuttle debris and rusting steel gridwork panels sunk into the surface. Yet even so, the keen eyes of the hunter pick out the tell-tale signs of boot prints in the mud, now almost obscured by the elements. Rymdvarg squats on his haunches astride a deeper set of prints and tastes a pinch of the greasy earth.
“There were four of them” he smiles. “The Magos and three Navy personnel. They have a combat servitor with them, I can taste it’s holy gun oil. The Magos appears to have cybernetically enhanced leg actuators. One of the Navy personnel is carrying an injured leg, and one of them is female.”
“An impressive deduction Brother, can you determine in which direction they travelled?” the Brother-Sergeant sounds genuinely impressed. Truly the legendary hunting skills of the Spacewolves were not mere tales of bravado.
“Affirmative son of Ultramar. They’re headed north west, likely towards the communication tower. These tracks were made about an hour ago”
Marcus stares towards the distant, dark silhouette of the communication tower, its jagged antennae array lost from view momentarily by the swirling sleet. A brief look towards the writhing alien mass in the sky to the west that draws ever closer galvanises him into action.
“Thunder’s Word. No sign of the Magos at the crash site. If you are receiving my signal have Techpriest Serverus attempt to triangulate the origin of the Magos’ last transmission. We are Omicron-Mu. Out.”
With the strange dataslates carefully stowed, Rafen completes his sweep of the craft silently, senses on overdrive, muttering silent blessings to the emperor for the gift he has been given – the revered mk6 power armour ‘Aziel’s Wrath’, it’s lithe reflexes having helped him glide through a multitude of hazards in campaigns past. Exiting the ruined craft and assuming point once again, with shotgun re-slung, Rafen edges out ahead of the squad.
“Awaiting orders Brother Marcus"
//Idle thought begets Heresy/
+++Estimated Time Remaining – 04:11+++
“Squad form up, pattern Kappa. Brother Rymdvarg, you have point. Deliver us the Magos.” As Marcus speaks the words, his comrades are already moving into position.
“Yes brother, offense pattern Kappa assumed.” Rafen intones into his vox, “Ten metre spread. The wolf has the scent. I remain vigilant and ready to deliver the Emperors’ will upon blessed wings of fire.”
“No prey can evade a Wolf-kin, Brother.” Anders, stooped low to study the fading tracks, leads the squad onwards, towards the distant communications array. They move tactically, yet with greater speed, Rymdvarg picking out the route across the industrial wasteground. To the north, the emergency klaxons of the grim internment facilty continue to wail and the Spacewolf pauses momentarily as the screams and blood-scent from within are carried to him on the driving wind. Over his left shoulder, the ominous and sporadic tell-tale whip-crack of las-fire can be heard echoing from the ravine once more.
As the marines pass cautiously through a rocky outcrop thick with industrial waste, Marcus’ vox-net channel crackles into life. He signals the team to pause in the scant shelter afforded by the rocky terrain, and while Rymdvarg studies the water-logged tracks Marcus raises an armoured hand to his earpiece as he strains to comprehend the rasping mechanical voice awash with bursts of static interference.
“Battle-Brothers… is Thunder’s Word. I….amplifed…to pierce the veil.. spores. Stop…. Vox anomalies.. classified imperial… cipher…. warning…. ‘venor venetor’..organism….unable…move.. your location. Stop. Last transmission received from …sh site. Stop. Craft modifications appear…the vox broadcaster..to boost….last transm….op. Swarm on rapid approach vector to… location. Stop. Machine…od protect…”
As the garbled message begins to repeat, Marcus urges the team onwards.
“Brothers, we need to move with greater purpose. Brother Rymdvarg, lead at double-time but remain vigilant.”
Rafen turns back to Marcus and nods in acknowledgement. As he does so, suddenly and without warning, a powerful shape springs from the darkness of the rocky tundra, directly towards the unaware Sergeant.
His head snapping up, Brother Rymdvarg bellows a frantic warning “Xenos!”. Hearing the shout, Marcus spins, automatically raising his heavy-bolter in defence a moment before the chitinous assailant crashes into his armoured form, knocking him from his feet. Long-bladed talons tear furiously at his armour again and again in a relentless and remorseless attempt to eviscerate him. Dead, black eyes filled not with a soul but with a terrible sentience lock with the struggling Brother’s, and Marcus perceives from the deepest recesses of the alien’s mind what can only be described as a burning, immortal hunger. With a roar building in his throat, the Sergeant rams an armoured fist into the alien fiend’s jaws in an attempt to dislodge it. The horror is knocked several paces clear, dark ichor dripping from its broken maw. It crouches, preparing to spring forth in another frenzied attack as the marine struggles to regain his feet.
As Rafen and Rymdvarg rush to Marcus’s aid, a half dozen more of the Gaunt genus Tyranid war-beasts flow over the rocky outcrop above them like a lightning quick shoal of deadly fish, a restless swarm of rippling claws and hard edged chitinous plates. As the marines steel themselves to receive the assault, the Hormagaunts close in for the kill, leaping and screaming, intending to leave nothing in their wake.
To arms Brothers! [Initiative Roll]
//Vigilance shall be our Fortress/