10. Strength

“Alright, talk to me!”, Titus demanded when they moved to make a start on clearing the area. “How large a daemon are we talking here?”
“Nothing for these corridors. I have an idea, may I?”
“Go ahead!”
“Tiberius?”, the librarian contacted their brother again. “Can you talk to the ‘Lawbringer’ and ask her if there are breaches in the hull or structural damage somewhere?”
“Probably, but not from -”, the techmarine broke off. “Just a second.”
A few daemons later, Tiberius reported in again. “One of the engineers can give me access to a panel here. Dankwart will be alone but I think he will manage.”
Suddenly, Titus was able to watch his concerns dwindle. This short exchange between the brothers had shown him that he was by no means working with insubordinate hot heads. They were seasoned specialists who never stopped thinking. Not even for his commands.
“You are searching for anything a larger daemon could have done”, he impressed on his techmarine. “Team one out. Vox? You sensed the rift before it happened. Can you search for the daemon the same way?”
“Only very close in while we’re in the warp.”
“How close?”
“About twice my height”, the brother answered.
“We’ll move towards the bridge”, Titus decided. “Tell me if you sense anything.”
“Aye, captain! May I go ahead?”
“Lead on!”
They picked up the pace now. With Vox in the lead, they had an exertive but uncomplicated time. He gave brief and accurate comments whenever he changed direction or went for foes.
A band of daemons was usually split between them by Vox tumbling through their ranks, dealing a few crippling strikes left and right but leaving enough for Titus to finish them off. This way of hunting was effective, fast and incredibly satisfying. It took care of a lot of daemons without slowing them down much. Despite this, they were not always able to stop the abominations from killing the crew. If the monsters had materialised inside a room somewhere, the inhabitants had no chance. More than once, they had a band of the ugly creatures spill out of a door, bathed in blood, the stink of burnt flesh surrounding them.
After a while, Tiberius contacted them again.
“Team one, come in.”
“We read”, Titus confirmed.
“I found a breach in the hull but it isn’t big enough to admit anything larger than we are.”
“Where is it?”, Vox asked and Titus could hear the apprehension in his voice.
“In the chapel.”
Vox groaned.
“That’s right next to the bridge.”
“Tiberius, what’s the status around the breach?”, Titus demanded.
“The sector has been sealed, captain.”
“Can you get us in?”
“I think so”, the techmarine said thoughtfully. “I’d have to seal you inside the sector next to it and evacuate it as well.”
“Do it!”
“What’s with the gravity in the chapel?”, Vox wanted to know.
It took a moment for Tiberius to find out. “Offline”, he reported.
“Yes, I thought it might be”, Vox said darkly.
“Tell me when you reach the big crossroads”, their techmarine asked them.
They ran on in silence, using the main hallway instead of detouring through side alleys to engage the smaller daemons. Titus used the time to put his helmet on. He never wore it if he could help it. It was a habit he had acquired in his long life and it was not uncommon among Astartes. Especially higher ranking Space Marines put value in being distinguishable by face for their brothers. The Codex Astartes left enough room for interpretation in this matter, so even Ultramarines made use of it. They would never have left their helmets behind but wearing it on the appropriate joist on the belt still counted as wearing.
Yet, however much Titus preferred to leave his helmet off, fighting in a vacuum without the option of communication was out of the question. When he closed the seal, it took a moment before his auto senses awoke around him and at least removed the feeling of his field of vision being hemmed in.
“Tiberius, we’re here”, Titus communicated when they had reached the specified crossing.
“Affirmative. I’ll seal the sector… now.” They had left the big pressure door behind already but still heard it snap shut. When Tiberius opened the door to the adjacent tract, the escaping air took the sounds around them with it. The seals of their armours gave little pops and groans as they shut themselves and the last remains of daemon blood that had not decomposed of its own accord yet boiled and evaporated. It left strange stains on their plates, even eating away at the paint.
A door further down the corridor flew open, admitting two humans. They fell forward, gasping, dying helplessly in the eerie, dulled sounds of the ensuing vacuum.
Titus gave them no second glance but Vox slowed down for a moment. Of course, there would be more casualties because of this. Regrettable but inevitable. His little brother was at his side again immediately, hardly a few heartbeats delayed. Therefore, Titus refrained from commenting.
Tiberius came in again: “Do you want me to try and do something about the gravity in the chapel, captain?”, he asked.
“Can you do it before we get there?”, Titus inquired.
“Probably not.”
“Then leave it. If things go bad, we’ll be dropping from the ceiling.”
He heard Vox wince. “Good news”, the brother said and Titus could hear that he was gritting his teeth. “The thing is not as bad as I thought. Bad news: It has spotted me.”
“Just you?”
“Yes”, the librarian confirmed. “And I’m sure it can hear me. Stay a bit behind me and whatever I do, do something else!”
He speeded up and reached the gate of the chapel, disappearing inside without hesitation. Titus had to smile to himself. He had almost forbidden Vox to take his jump pack along because he had deemed it unnecessary. Now, he envied him a little. Not only did Titus have to make do without a means of changing direction in zero gravity, the last training for this had been some time ago as well. Nevertheless, he was confident that he could master this part. It had less to do with strength than coordination and the latter had not dwindled as much as his pure physical prowess.
When he reached the door, he saw that the vast hall of the chapel was silent and dark. He stepped inside, leaving the gravity field and reached up to get hold of the door frame. Careful not to lose his grip, he swung around and squatted down against the wall like an overlarge, armoured gargoyle.
Quickly, he shuffled through his memory for any structures in here where his mag boots would be of assistance but within half a second he knew that his chances were slim. Maybe in the back, close to the windows but nowhere else. The place of worship on the ‘Lawbringer’ was largely made of solid stone and glass, furnished with wood.
He could see from here that one of said windows in the back was broken. The breach was indeed not big enough to admit any larger creature and it occurred to him that it might have only been made for the air to escape.
The scene was silent for the lack of air and he turned the low-light filters in his auto senses up to gain more contrast. Soon, he spotted something moving. It crept over one of the pillars, clearly non-humanoid and clearly searching for something. Titus pushed away from the door, swinging from pillar to pillar. He managed to get quite close to his target and saw that it was looking down to where the furniture of the chapel was floating.
He drew his chainsword with careful movements and tensed.
Suddenly, one of the benches shot up like a projectile. The daemon jerked back easily but Titus used the distraction to push away from his pillar. He aimed for what looked more like the head of the thing than the rest. When he had gotten hold of a tentacle, it was the work of a heartbeat to thrust the rotating blades of his chainsword into the opponent. It writhed under him, the scream of rage and agony lost in the void. The reaction to his attack was adequately grotesque for a daemon. Clawed paws grew out of its back and got hold of both Titus’ arms.
With all his might, he twisted in the steel grip and kicked out against the wavering body of the disgusting beast. The beak opening as it did so, the demon turned its head around to him. It was aiming to bite into the softer section of his belly armour, when Vox shot up from below.
The brother had gripped one of the benches, which he first used to slow his momentum and then, to hit the daemon as hard as possible. They all were knocked away from the pillar when the piece of furniture connected. From the corner of his eyes, Titus saw the brother draw his sword. A moment later, the grip of the daemon loosened.
Pierced by another blade, the thing twisted and Titus managed to clip one of his grenades to a strap that hung off the fiend. Quickly, he swung around the enemy and collided with Vox.
A confused moment went by in which Titus tried to drag the brother away before the grenade would go off. They tumbled around in the weightlessness and finally, Vox pulled them both away with his jump pack. They had just managed to take cover behind a pillar when Titus’ grenade exploded.
He could not resist using the vox anymore.
“Praise the Omnissiah for delayed frag charges!”, he jeered.
Vox turned his helmet to him and the second grenade detonated.
“Praise him indeed!”, the young man answered.
Titus had to laugh.
“Well done, little brother! Great minds think alike I’d say!” He patted the friend on the shoulder.
“I guess I can’t blame you if I don’t do something else”, Vox said despondently.
“Agreed”, Titus conceded curtly. “Is it dead?”
“Shame. Can it still hear you?”
“You can talk.”
“Good to know. Where has it gotten to?”
Vox pointed towards the exit. They crouched and pushed away, missing the thing by a few metres as it scurried into the gravity outside. Clinging to the door frame again, they peered through.

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Guide Me Through the Darkness by Julia M. V. Warren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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