105. Rivalry

Having limited space for training grounds, the ‘Hammer of Destiny’ compensated this by the large variability of the layout of the rooms she could provide. Today, the tech priests on board had converted one of the halls at the Astartes’ disposal into something resembling a destroyed building or narrow cave system. Large metal plates had been installed at odd angles everywhere. It was a bit like sneaking through a partially collapsed house of cards.
One of the last exercises they underwent had very easy terms: They moved in pairs with one team having three members. Whoever got hit by any weapon dropped out and the last team standing won.
In units like this Vox usually refrained from employing her powers to equal things out. Since they had entered the warp again a few hours ago, she would have been constricted to listening into the minds of the others in any case. Therefore, Titus was taken by surprise when she suddenly held him back before they rounded a corner.
He turned around in puzzlement and the reprimand died in his throat. Something had just gone wrong. He could see it in her face.
Vox stood leaned to the plate in their backs and listened for something.
“We have all of Gladius around the corner”, she whispered a few heartbeats later. “I will draw the others, you get Arrick.” She turned a worryingly intense gaze to him. “You have to get him to yield to you!”
Titus refrained from questioning this. He trusted that if Vox violated their chain of command like this, she had good reasons.
“Understood”, he confirmed and pointed upwards. He had spotted a gap in the plates they could climb up through. This would enable them to come out where their opponents were not expecting them. It was the work of a moment for the two of them to pass it. Titus lifted her up and she pulled him after herself. The plates were only a few centimetres thick and it was hard to move silently on them. Their armoured boots clanged loudly on the metal plates but they managed to sneak along the edge of this one and drop down right next to a slope that would bring them into the back of Gladius.
Vox took lead.
She carried only a training sword but when she spanned the distance with a few steps and dropped between Yorg and Caregar, they still put their weapons away in submission immediately.
She did not stop there. Instead, she accelerated, approaching the next plate. Switching the sword to the other hand, she grabbed the edge and catapulted herself around it. Titus followed close behind and saw that she kicked Grimfang aside before she parried a heavy sword strike from Rogan. While she moved around him to avoid Ignatius, Titus followed in her back to gain cover and crashed into Grimfang shoulder plate first. The Space Wolf had not been able to catch himself sufficiently to prevent his fall but he managed to get hold of Titus. Elegantly he used the captain’s own momentum to throw him even further than he flew himself. They both went down a steep slope.
Titus managed to roll to his feet and put the bolter away before he hit a vertical plate at the end of the one he was slithering along. Unfortunately, when he had slammed into the vertical sheet of metal, he found out that there had been a gap between the two plates.
The fall was rather long and the landing painful even though he managed to compensate a lot of his momentum with a well executed roll.
It did not get better when Grimfang fell on top of him.
Titus heard something clatter away and was pretty sure that one of their training blades had been knocked loose from its mag lock. Titus lost no time in finding out whose it had been. The goal fixed in his mind was to get the sergeant to yield, not to test their sword skills. He came to his feet as quickly as possible, already twisting to ram his shoulder into his opponent again. The onslaught brought the man to his back. Again, Grimfang used some of Titus’ speed to get him into a position he had not aimed for and managed to place a painful punch in his face. When confronted with Astartes who had neglected to wear their helmet, it was a good strategy to aim punches at brows and forehead. Even minor wounds there could cloud the vision as long as they bled enough and this was what the sergeant had achieved. Having established physical contact to his opponent, however, Titus was not reliant on sight. When the Space Wolf managed to struggle upright, trying to escape the captain’s grasp, he ended up against the next plate with one arm twisted to his back.
“Yield”, Titus demanded but Grimfang kicked out and got just enough freedom of movement to break the lock on his arm.
“No!”, the sergeant hissed and came at Titus again. In the split second, before they exchanged a new round of punches, he saw that Grimfang was the one who had lost his sword. This stopped him from exactly nothing, however. The Space Wolf rolled away under one of his captain’s punches and used the opportunity to draw the combat knife from his calf sheath. Armed with this, he attacked once more and Titus had his work cut out not to get hit. With great presence of mind, he managed to redirect the knife so that the blade scraped harmlessly over Grimfang’s thigh piece.
“You’re out”, Titus growled. “Yield!”
From here on, things got ugly. The Space Wolf did not even waste breath with refusing anymore. He simply attacked. Titus was glad that Vox had warned him because Grimfang was serious about his business. His very first attack was an attempt to steal Titus’ sword. Unwilling to raise the stakes this high, Titus opted for throwing the blade aside as soon as he had reclaimed it but this only resulted in the renewed efforts of his opponent to do harm.
Having narrowly escaped a cut aimed for his throat, the captain saw himself forced to make use of the one advantage he had at hand: Grimfang had a cybernetic eye. These things were built for combat. Tough shelled and anchored to the skull itself but they still had direct contact with the soft tissue inside. Hit hard enough, it was possible to break it loose and drive it straight into the brain. With this, Titus would be able to knock the man out. Or kill him.
He twisted out of the way of the next attack, bunched his fist and landed the punch right on the spot. There was an ugly crunch and Grimfang went down. The knife clattered away but when Titus landed on top of him, the sergeant buckled and managed to throw him off. He tried to come to his feet but he swayed heavily. Like this, he was easy prey for Titus who pushed him over with force.
“Yield!”, the captain demanded and was surprised when his victim still struggled. He forced him down on his belly, got hold of one of his arms and grabbed his white mane with the free hand.
“Yield!”, he insisted again.
“No!”, Grimfang managed through gritted teeth and tensed the restricted arm but the captain had had enough. He knew where to push with his knee while holding an arm like this to break it neatly out of the joint.
He disliked sounds like that when they came from a brother and the quiet groan his opponent uttered set his teeth on edge.
“Yield!”, Titus roared and when Grimfang did nothing but squirm weakly under him, he added in annoyance: “In the Emperor’s name, sergeant, I don’t want to hurt you further! Yield to me!”
The Space Wolf lay still for a moment.
“I yield”, he muttered then. It was so quiet that Titus almost missed it but Vox had appeared from Emperor knew where and nodded for him to let him go. Titus was very careful in releasing his grasp while Vox stalked over to them like a shadow. She reached her hand out to Titus and squeezed down in a reassuring manner when he grasped it.
“All out”, she informed him curtly and knelt down next to Grimfang as well. The Space Wolf was just pushing himself to his knees while suppressing an agonised whimper. Then, he threw up. They steadied him patiently and Titus tried to secure his broken arm with the man’s own lifeline to stop it from dangling around.
“Status”, he demanded over com as soon as the sergeant had fallen silent.
“Aegis two out”, Tiberius reported.
“Aegis three out”, Corven’s voice came in. He and Xavor had been fighting together.
“Gladius two out”, Tobias Caregar answered.
“Gladius one out”, Grimfang declared in leaden tones.
“Aegis one standing”, Titus gave back. “Ignatius, Grimfang has been hurt. Rendezvous at the entrance.”
“Affirmative”, they heard.
Vox left Titus to steady his victim. She collected the men’s swords and went on ahead to scout out the easiest route to ground level. They still had a bit of the training day left after Ignatius had disappeared with Grimfang. The three remaining members of Gladius seemed a bit uncertain about the injuries they had seen on their sergeant but nobody commented on a Space Marine getting hurt during training.

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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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