Can't Keep a Void Dog Down
They swept through the empty corridors like a wave washing ashore. Silent even in their immense power armor, ceramite boots landing silently against the floor. All throughout the bowels of the Call of Justice the marines of the Star Kraken’s 8th company stalked their prey. “Second squad, report” Brother-Captain Tyr said into his helmet’s vox.
“Second squad responds. Nothing yet, captain. Lots of servitors down here, though. None functional. Whoever was here did these up right, half these combat servs didn’t even get their guns up before they got scragged” came the reply. Tyr blinked an affirmation to over his helmet’s display.
“Third squad, report.”
“Third squad responds, Brother-Captain. It appears as though the warp drive was sabotaged, as well as the primary fusion reactor. There are no signs of las-scoring or discarded bolter rounds though, but without any bodies to inspect I cannot say with certainty the events that transpired in this section of the vessel. Once we secure the bridge I can attempt to interface with the machine spirits and make further inquiries into the nature of this event” came the mechanic reply.
“Fourth squad, report.”
“Fourth squad responds. The armory is clear, captain. However…” There was an uneasy quality in the Sergeant’s voice Tyr couldn’t help but notice. Sergeant Rallos was one of the most veteran marines in the entire legion, and Tyr relied heavily on his breadth of knowledge and experience. It was rare to hear such doubt in his wizened voice; “The armory is empty. No weapons, no supplies, no bodies. If this vessel were raided, whoever did it managed to take the entirety of this armory without so much as a single shot being fired in response. That, or else this armory was empty, which is even more baffling. Even the most careless of crews would have had time to mount a defense here, but they didn’t. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Tyr nodded to himself, glancing around at his squad. Eight men, himself included, stood ready outside the bridge of this abandoned vessel. It had appeared suddenly on their ship’s auspex hours before, seeming to come out of the Warp, though no Warp exit signatures of any kind had been detected. It was small, too small to be out here alone, but by all appearances it was. Even worse, it was devoid of all bodies. A ship this size should have easily had six-hundred crew members, as well as scores of mindless servitors, but so far nothing. “All squads make your way towards my marker. We are preparing to enter the bridge” Tyr voxed for all squads to hear. Three blinking green lights on his helmet’s display screen indicated a confirmation. Exactly twelve minute later all four squads of the Star Kraken’s 4th company stood arrayed outside the Call of Justice’s bridge. 32 Astartes, hand-picked by the captain himself for this mission, stood ready for whatever lay inside those doors. Four marines, each armed with a massive Breacher Shield, stood shoulder to shoulder in front of the ceramite doors that heralded the entrance to the bridge. Behind them the remaining Battle-Brothers held their bolters at the ready. With an imperceptible nod from the captain, Sergeant Rallos stepped forward to the doors. With a thought he ignited the ancient machine spirits of his Power Fist, a hum of energy and crackling lightning erupting from the mechanisms within. He reared his hand, slamming it into the door with a practiced precision. The door buckled and warped, sparks and chunks of ceramite flying off of it. Two more strikes the door exploded inwards.
Without missing a beat the shielded marines rushed in, knowing that their brethren were less than a heartbeat behind them. Thirty-two marines streamed in with seamless precision, decades of ship-to-ship combat preparing them for this exact scenario. They were prepared for any manner of enemy to be unleashed upon them. But that is not what they found. “Throne of Light…” someone muttered over the vox channel. It was Brother Thierolf of the second squad. He looked back at Captain Tyr, his shock evident even through his helmet.
The room was a massacre. Tyr’s helmet immediately registered fifty-odd targets, with more popping up as he scanned throughout the room. Blood coated the wall in arterial streaks, painting the grey room a sickly burnished red color. Uniformed Imperial Navy officers had their once white coats stained with their own blood. But the Naval Officers weren’t what the squads were looking at. Arrayed at the front of the room were six dead Astartes, sprawled ingloriously near the central console of the bridge. All save one, whose dying fury was preserved in his final moments, his body half slumped against a console, his gauntleted hand gripped inhumanly tight around the neck of some unfortunate figure.
Sergeant Rallos stepped forward; the servos of his ancient armor grinding slightly as he knelt down to inspect a body. This one was certainly not an Imperial Officer. “Eldar…” he muttered. He magnetically sealed his bolter to his thigh and reached down slowly with his free hand. The corpse was thin, almost waif-like, but it belied a grace and agility that even Astartes paled in comparison to. Its skin was a black as coal, its features sharp and angular. It wore armor of interlapping plates, spikes jutted seemingly at random from the chest and shoulders. Its torso was blown apart by repeated las-fire and bolter rounds. “Their dark kin, it seems” Tyr added. It was beginning to make a lot more sense now. “Likely a raid. They must have come from their hidden realm somewhere nearby. The reaped quite a toll, it would seem.” Tyr wanted to retch. There couldn’t be more than seventy crew members here, which meant that the raiders had likely made off with the rest as prisoners. He muttered a silent prayer to the Emperor for those who were taken.
He stepped towards the front of the bridge, staring at the dead Astartes on the ground. The one who had remained standing even in death had one of the foul Xenos still in his hand. The Eldar’s face was locked in an expression somewhere between ecstasy and agony. “Warp take you, Xenos scum” Brother Thierolf said, his voice filled with spite. He knelt and examined his fallen brother before turning to his captain. “Captain, what chapter are they from? Their armor is painted black…but they all have different sigils on their pauldrons” Thierolf astutely noticed as Tyr nodded, “They’re Deathwatch, from the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition. Various chapters across the Imperium send marines to honor ancient agreements between them and the Inquisition. They typically operate in small squads, usually accompanying or working directly with the Inquisition. But why they are out here…alone…” he trailed off.
“This does not make sense” Rallos said, echoing the captain’s thoughts. “Why are they out here alone? A ship this size can’t be far from an outpost or fleet of some kind. Furthermore, why are they all on the bridge?” the veteran sergeant was right. A raiding party, even one as skilled as the Eldar, could never hope to overtake this ship which such speed. The vaunted Deathwatch would never be so lax as to let their entire ship be overtaken so quickly. This whole scenario reeked of a last stand, yet the entirety of the ship seemed untouched by this battle. “They were defending something. Or someone.” Thierolf said. Tyr gave a silent agreement. For all his faults, Brother Thierolf had a keen mind.
Tyr stepped towards the center console, running his hands slowly over the panel.
“Brother Torvald,” Tyr voxed “do your best to interface with the ships machine spirits. Find out what happened here”. From the back a marine, larger than the rest, stepped forward. A great harness of mechandrites and tools were grafted to his chest plate, and in his arm he carried a massive axe, inscribed with the holy runes and sigils of the Adeptus Mechanicus. He went to work silently, his augmented mind interfacing with the ancient machine spirits that filled the ship. Within moments auxiliary power was restored, and the bridge came alive with lights and sounds. Tyr stepped lightly around the bodies of his fallen brothers, inspecting the curious pattern in which they lay. Almost in a prefect crescent, forming a barrier around the area where Torvald now worked. They had sacrificed every tactical advantage they had to stand their ground at this place. But why?
“Lots of good equipment here, Captain” Sergeant Rallos dared to say. Several brothers jerked their heads in his direction, disapproving looks evident behind their helmets. “Just sayin’. Who knows the next time we’ll be able to repair our arms and armor, way out here in the Deep. They fought well; fought hard, surely, but what good does all this do them now?” He argued.
“You would disrespect your fallen brothers like this, Sergeant?” Rallos spat. “Is this how you imagine our vaunted chapter behaves? Looting from out fallen brothers as though they were pirates, or xenos scum?” the veteran sergeant chided. The younger marine snickered, rising to face Rallos. “Everything I do I do for the Emperor and our Imperium. And you know well as I that here, in the Deep, there’s no light by which to see what we do. We’re alone out here.” For a moment the two stood, face to face, silent and grim. “All the more reason we must do what is right.” Brother-Captain Tyr responded, strong and stern. Even without his vox his voice rang strong and clear. “A man’s true soul is revealed by what he does in the dark. The Emperor knows this, and he knows what he asks of those sons he sends willingly into the darkness beyond his sight. We, perhaps more than any other chapter, must always act with honor and discipline. Even though our actions, whatever they may be, may go unjudged, we will know, and come our last judgment in the Final Depths, the Emperor will know.” For a long moment there was silence as his words sank in minds of every soldier in the room.
“Captain,” Torvald spoke, his mechanically altered voice cutting straight to the captain’s helm. “It is all gone. All records, vid logs, and history of this ship have been thoroughly and permanently erased. Even the machine spirit has been…silenced.” Tyr could sense a hint of uneasiness even in Torvald’s robotic tone. “I postulate that the final minutes of this ship, and its crew’s, life were spent destroying every piece of evidence about this ship or its purpose” he finished.
“Can it be salvaged? Repaired?” The captain asked. For a long moment Torvald was silent, his mechandrites whirring and ticking away at the console. “There are perhaps salvageable pieces among the ship, but I lack the technical ability to repair damage such as has been done to its cogitators.” Klaxons erupted suddenly, cutting the tech priest off from his speech. He glanced up momentarily, looking at something only his eyes could see, and then threw himself back at the controls. “Give me an update, Torvald” Tyr said frantically, unhinging his bolter from his side and drawing his chainsword. All around him troopers moved into position. The shielded brothers up front, tactical marines moving behind them. Sergeant Rallos ignited him Power Fist, drawing his bolter to stand behind Brother Thierolf. “Auspex reads mass-movement coming from below decks. Fifty….Correction…One-hundred plus individual targets moving with alarming speed. Logic suggests they are converging on the bridge.” Torvald mumbled, fully engrossed within the ships systems. “Approximately eighty-five seconds until they arrive”.
Captain Tyr stood in front of his men, turning to face them.
“Astartes of the 8th company!” He boomed, his voice augmented by the speakers in his helmet. “The xenos scum think us weak, think us vulnerable. They think they a trap has been sprung. And they’re right! They’ve saved us the trouble of tracking them down, so let’s repair their generosity with some of our own!” The troops around him erupted into howls of fury and vigor, chains swords whirring through the air. “Void Dogs,” The captain howled, invoking the company’s well-earned nickname, “Show these abominations the meaning of fury!”
Moments later, shadows erupted from the door. Howling, disfigured, grotesque things swarmed through the door, clawing and rending each other to throw themselves at the 8th company. Bolters erupted, tearing through flesh and bone and armor. But where each one fell, three more appeared. Captain Tyr picked his targets carefully, his aim steady and sure amidst the chaos. A bolter round took the head off a creature, but if it minded it did not show it. Another hit some sort of chemical tank attached to the back of another, spraying a nearby grotesque in a spray of acid. They clambered over each other, but none could penetrate the deadly field of fire the Void Dogs were laying down.
A barely spherical ball of claws and limbs flew through the air, slamming into Sergeant Rallos. He went down, his bolter knocked from his hand. The thing thrashed and mauled, rending deep gouges in the Sergeants armor, his Power Fist pinned at his side. A whir of glittering white teeth split the thing in two, gore and viscera splattering all the marines nearby. “Get up, you old dog” Thierolf said, grabbing the Sergeants outstretched hand and hoisting him up, “you’re not done yet”.
As suddenly as it began, it was over. Score of the hideous creatures lay twisting and writhing in piles on the floor. The marines checked their brethren, ensuring none had fallen in the firefight, none had. “Captain Tyr to Hafgufa, come in” The captain said, opening a vox to the companies strike cruiser waiting nearby. After a moment he was met with a response from the command vessel, “The ship is infested, and unsalvageable. We’re returning shortly. As soon as you detect our Thunderhawks approaching, scuttle the Call of Justice.” He received an affirmation, and turned to his brothers, who were waiting for the order he was about to give.
“Second squad, take our fallen brethren. Third squad, take point. We’re headed home.”