For 6 months out of its 42 month solar cycle Praxium Secundus is one of the largest trading hubs in the sector. During this harvest season ships and traders from all corners of the sector gather to conduct business and reap the rewards of this veritable piñata of commerce. But for the remaining 36 months, it is a somber and deserted place. Nothing but a skeleton crew of hab workers remained to tend to the darkened world. Floating high above the Praxium Secundus is a massive orbital defense station simply called The Watch. It maintains a crew of nearly 30,000 all throughout the year, conducting orbital traffic and defense of the world below. Bristling with macro cannons, missile batteries, and a lance array that wouldn’t seem out of place on holy Luna, The Watch is an imposing sight to any who would dare threaten the peaceful planet. It contains numerous scientists, government workers, planetary officials, a sizeable defense force of well trained soldiers, and at this exact moment exactly 9 Astartes of the Space Kraken’s 8th Company.
“As I have stated before, and will continue to do, you are mistaken, Captain” Station Commander Illyanov Trethchild Rostus III said. He wore the dark blue uniform of a naval officer, decorated with all manner of awards and commendations. His hands were clasped cleanly behind his back, his spine stiffened straighter than seemed possible. To his immense credit, he did not seem all that insignificant compared to the armored giant in front of him.
Brother-Captain Tyr stood impassive, his towering form casting a dark shadow in front of him. He stood well over two meters tall in his dark power armor, looking more like a giant from Terran myth than a human. His helmet was clutched under one arm, his face visible to all who would dare look. His dirty blond hair was trimmed short, though the stubble on his face was quickly turning into a full blown beard. He had piercing blue eyes, eyes locked on the man in front of him.
“Never once in the three thousand year history of this planet and this station have we failed to pay our Imperial Tithes. Furthermore, your suggestion that we should supply your ship with munitions in order for you to turn a blind eye to this false claim is insulting at best, and treasonous at worst.” There was a slight gasp from a soldier somewhere behind the commander.
“I will begin immediately preparing the proper astropathic channels to obtain confirmation that our tithes are paid in full, so that we may put this matter to rest.”
“When we next meet, commander, do remember that we could have done this the easy way” Tyr said. He stuck his free hand in the air; index finger extended, and spun it around in a circle. The 7 marines in formation around his marched up the ramp of the Thunderhawk. Captain Tyr gave one last look at the commander from over his shoulder as the ramp close.
As the Astartes Thunderhawk drifted out of The Watch’s hanger, Commander Rostus watched with narrowed eyes. Far across the reaches of space he could just barely spot the outline of the Hafgufa in the distance. The 8th company’s strike cruiser was a mobile fortress of dark green and burnished gold. Its immense size belied its speed and maneuverability, and its arsenal, both of void weaponry and skilled raiders, was enough to give even the boldest of fleet commanders pause.
“Sir, with no disrespect meant, was that wise?” Ensign Jensen dared. Rostus gave him a sideways glance and began walking.
“I’ve encountered this ship before. It was piloted by a different man then, the late Captain Rayner. He was a fine soldier, but a scoundrel through and through. I know little of this new captain, but I cannot believe that things have changed much in the late captain’s absence. The 8th company of the Star Krakens chapter are as close to pirates as the Astartes can be, and I have no doubt that this…accusation…is merely a gambit designed to bully us into acquiescing to their ridiculous demands. It will not work. Put The Watch on high alert, I want every man at their station. I’d sooner welcome them to my personal liquor cabinet than turn a blind eye to their villainy.”
Captain Tyr plopped his massive frame onto the seat of the Thunderhawk, running a hand down across his scalp and over his face. All around him Astartes removed their helmets.
“This is a bold play, cap’n” Brother Thierolf said. “The Watch has got a hell of an arsenal, and if the timing is off by even a few seconds then we’re not going to...”
“I know, Thierolf, I know. It’s a gambit. A big one. But we don’t have a whole lot of options after that run in with Grimfang. Besides, I think it’s what…” he drifted off there, his eyes zoning off into the side of the hull. The room grew quiet.
“It’s what Captain Rayner would have done” Sergeant Rallos finished. Tyr nodded.
Thierolf glanced back and forth, trying to think of some way to break the tension.
“Hey, if there’s anyone in the chapter who could get this done, it’s Leif.”
Leif was crouched in the corner of the hanger as the Commander delivered his speech to the departing captain. When the captain gave the cue, that ridiculously overexagerrated finger swirl, he sprang into action.
Without his power armor, wearing only a form fitting black body glove, he could almost be mistaken for a human. He was lithe and lean for a space marine, though he still retained the height. The mission necessitated a complete lack of equipment, and so now he carried only an ancient chronometer and a lightweight Glavian needle rifle, and the pack slung tight over his back, of course. As he sprinted silently through the shadows he activated the chronometer. Exactly 640 seconds.
He whirled around a corner, using one hand as a brace to slide into the next hallway. Since he had no helmet, no auspex, and no data feed, he had spent the last three weeks of transit pouring over detailed maps of The Watch, memorizing every detail. He spun around another corner, raising his compact rifle up, never slowing. A patrol turned around just in time to catch a pair of needle-like darts in his chest. Leif hurtled his body before he even hit the ground.
“Sir, the Hafgufa has engaged its primary engines and is moving towards us. None of its armaments are online however, and it doesn’t appear to be in an attack vector” Ensign Jensen said.
The commander stood stone faced, watching the black dot grow steadily larger through the massive glass windows of encircling the bridge of The Watch.
“The 8th company is well known for their unwillingness to face their foes in honorable combat, be prepared for anything” the commander replied. He allowed himself a smirk at the 8th company’s expense. Void Dogs, what proud warriors would willingly accept that moniker? The same kind that prefer to flee from their foes than fight them, he presumed.
“Assume that the 8th company is intending to assault The Watch, and act accordingly. Prime all lances and prepare the macro canons.”
Leif could feel the entire station hum with energy; they were charging their lance array and canons. And from the sound of it, all of them. He glanced at his chronometer. 263 seconds remaining.
He was flying down the corridors now, a ghost of black and silver. He burst through a door and nearly ran into someone. In a split second he recognized the brown jacket of a custodian and averted his rifle, changing his momentum to a swift elbow to the side of the poor fellow’s head. He would wake up with one hell of a headache, but he’d survive.
He took just a moment to check his location; mentally scrolling through the hand-drawn pages of maps he was given. A breath later he had it. He shouldered his way through another door and vaulted down a flight of stairs.
“The Hafgufa will be within range in exactly thirty seconds, commander” Jensen said, furiously tapping commands and bringing up data on the console ahead of him. “They’re still not moving in any sort of firing position I’ve ever seen and sir…they haven’t even begun charging their lance arrays or… any of their weapons. They’re engines only seem to be moving at about 40% speed”.
It didn’t make sense. Rostus ran his mind through every possible scenario, every method of assault that they could possibly engage in, and this was none of them. But it must be some kind of trick, and if he let his guard down, even for a second, the battle would be over.
“Sir, 20 seconds.” Jensen reported, now staring intently at the Commander. He noticed all eyes in the room were on him now.
“When they are in range…show them strength of The Watch.”
Leif hit the ground and went into a savage roll, stumbling as he came up. He drove his whole body through a door, tearing it clean off the hinges and sending it bouncing into the room. Before it had even stopped bouncing he dropped down to both knees, his momentum carrying him forward. He tossed his gun in front of him, no time to spare.
He pulled the pack off his back and tore the leather strap from the top. From inside he produced a string of 7 glassteel balls, each one no bigger than his hand. He looked around for just a moment, deciding that one place was as good as the next. He slung the device around some sort of power coupling and linked the ends together. Instantly the balls filled with what looked like a tiny, but devastating, lightning storm.
“This better work, Torvald” he muttered as he dove to the ground, shutting his eyes and sticking a finger in each ear.
“Target acquired. Weapons array locked. Firing in 5…4…” Jensen said, eyes wide. From somewhere inside the station, a storm broke loose. A subsonic howl of energy exploded outward, bathing the entirety of The Watch in a static haze. As it washed out from the power station centered within the belly of the Watch, it took with it every ounce of power for a hundred miles. There was nothing but darkness.
“Give me a report!” Rostus howled to the blackness around him. Ensigns and crewmen banged impotently at their stations, stumbling over each other. It was dead, everything was dead. Even the auxiliary power was absent. The entire crew of the bridge now stared out at the rapidly approaching Astartes Strike Cruiser. For a long minute they watched it draw closer and closer, weapons still inert.
“Sir…it’s…” Jensen mumbled.
“Docking.” Rostus finished.
The Hafgufa drifted lazily towards The Watch. Into the maximum range of its weapons, and then the minimum, and then right into its port. Even if they wanted to they couldn’t target the massive cruiser now. Just as it was position itself into a cozy docking area, The Watch came alive, lights spreading across its massive form.
Captain Tyr hailed them on the ship’s vox channel, reclining his armored form in the Captain’s Chair. The vox came on, and Tyr was greeted with a room full of open-mouthed station officers, and one very angry commander.
“Commander, so we meet again! I must say, sooner than I expected. It seems you’re having some power troubles, though things appear to be alright now. That is fortunate, as we will be needing some repairs on our vessel.” Tyr said, a smile creeping across his face.
“What…” the commander said through gritted teeth, “would make you think I would EVER aid you after what you just did?”
Tyr quickly switched his smile to a masterfully acted wounded expression
“Commander, I don’t know what you mean. All I know is that as my vessel, a member of the vaunted Adeptus Astartes, approached your station with peaceful intent, and in response you charged every weapon your formidable station has on my ship and its crew. And that is exactly what my fellow captains, my brother chapters, and the High Lords of Terra will see should I choose to show the logs of this incident, of which I have plenty. But I don’t think that will be necessary, I’m sure we can work out a deal.”
The commander tried his hardest to relax his facial muscles, but he couldn’t. Even if he wanted to resist, he could already see dozens of Thunderhawk gunships, filled with the galaxy’s deadliest warriors, moving to enter his station.
“I must say, it really is quite fortunate you had that little power-outage. You see, our lance array and canons were heavily damaged in our last engagement. It’s unlikely we could have fought back even if we had wanted to. We lack the supplies and manpower to repair them, but certainly you will be more than happy to give us the full support of The Watch to help rectify that. It really is quite lucky we happened upon you this day.” The Captain finished. Just off screen, the Astartes around him laughed silently.
“One final thing, is it true you are in possession of a case of Terran Black Rum? I’ve been dying to sample some” said Tyr, grinning broadly.
Commander Rostus let out on final, defeated sigh.
“Welcome to The Watch, captain.”