21. A Knack and a Hunch

There was the short, unpleasant moment of nausea, typical for being teleported. Then, Vox and Titus appeared neatly in the middle of a dimly lit corridor. They hardly even dropped.
The interior of the station immediately told them that they had left the blessed realm of the Emperor behind. Instead of proper hallways built of stone or at least steel, undersized passages, coated in a waxy material of light grey greeted them. Alien signs were everywhere, interrupting the monotone of the wall at every opportunity and filling the corridor with an unpleasant liveliness that threatened to spring the unprepared mind.
Outside the numerous windows that lined one wall of the corridor, the well cloaked ‘Zephyr’ was hard to spot. Their auto senses only showed a vague suggestion of her outline.
They oriented themselves away from her and took the next corridor towards the core.
Whatever Tiberius had done, it had been successful. They encountered not a single drone on their way. Even so, they took no chances. With their auto senses heightened to detect any sound, they stalked through the empty corridors as silently as a power armour could be made to move.
They had made good time but found no opportunity to descend a level when Vox suddenly halted. He turned his head this way and that as if listening for something. Titus waited. Since he detected nothing himself, he suspected that his brother listened by other means than his ears. This suspicion intensified when Vox took his helmet off and clipped it to his belt. For a moment the librarian did nothing, just breathed flatly, his eyes half closed.
Suddenly, they snapped open.
“No, don’t!”, he burst out, breaking radio silence, the alarm shrieking into life half way through his sentence.
“Damn it!”, Vox snarled. “Follow me!”
He rushed forwards, dropping all caution and Titus had his work cut out to keep up because Vox pushed himself forward with his jump pack. He cursed the thing because it threatened to separate them. Vox slowed down before the next corner and yelled over the alarm: “Carnas!”
“Aye!”, their brother’s voice could be heard.
“Come on, this way!”
Aharran appeared from the right, joining Titus who gave him a slightly puzzled glance behind his helmet.
Bereft of his partner, their demolition expert apparently had been hiding in the corridor. Titus shrugged. Things surely would have gotten ugly, had they run into him unannounced. Vox had literally made the right call here.
They continued to the left and turned right at the next junction again, once more aiming for the core.
Vox did not push on anymore, only ran at a steady pace until suddenly his hands burst into flames.
“Keep your distance!”, their librarian demanded and the flames licked up around his shoulders, for a moment spilling out behind him like a billowing cloak. At the next junction, he hurled the flames to the left and right in an incredible inferno. Titus and Aharran passed the crossing in an instant but they both saw the Tau that had taken cover there. Framed by melting walls, the xeno filth was twitching and burning, their screams another note in the cacophony of the alarm.
Vox slowed for a moment to let them catch up but as if changing his mind, he accelerated again, pushing himself forward as he drew his sword. The flames licked over the blade, reflecting unpleasantly from the crystals set in it. Titus had never seen his friend draw a sword before he struck, not even in training.
Vox turned right at the upcoming junction while from the left Tau fire erupted. Titus and Aharran closed in on the corner that was concealing the enemies to the left. They exchanged a glance. Aharran shrugged and threw a grenade around it. Afterwards, they watched Vox kill the Tau on the other side.
In a cool, detached part of his mind Titus understood that Vox was employing his ability to foresee the near future but that did not unmake what he saw. Against the daemons Vox had taken his time. Dodging, manoeuvering, anticipating. Now, his movements were precise, controlled, fast, deadly. Less than a dozen strikes for more than a dozen foes in no more than five seconds and, unusual for him, one shot from his bolt pistol. It killed the only miserable Tau on the other side, who had barely survived Aharran’s grenade. Without a further look at them, Vox was running again. He put the sword away, fire still burning around his hands. They heard his voice as he contacted the others: “Athuriel! Tau moving up over you. To your left, I think.”
The Dark Angel’s answer was lost in their private line.
“Tiberius, Dankwart!”, Vox bellowed into the com. “Turn left, Tau incoming in front!”
Suddenly, Titus remembered how depressed Vox had been when he had told him that he had not sensed Leandros moving up to him. If he was able to monitor the movements of all their comrades and foes alike, especially if these foes were the only slightly warp active Tau, not noticing Leandros could be called a failure indeed.
They reached the end of the corridor.
“We must be close to the core!”, Titus reckoned aloud.
“Only need to go down!”, the Celestial Lion nodded his agreement.
Vox did not react to either. He stood and looked to the left for a moment. His uncurled hair trailed unsteadily around his head, blown by unfelt winds. Around him, the air wavered like on a hot summer’s day. When they stopped beside him, Titus thought he saw figures jump up and down in the haze. He got a short glimpse of Vox’s face before the brother sprinted away to the right. Blood was just starting to drip from his eyes. The comrades exchanged another worried glance and made haste to close the gap on him.
Other than any of the others before, the new corridor had a curvature to it. When their librarian turned a sharp left, they followed him into a circular hall of finally half way sensible dimensions. It was about fifty metres across. Coming to a halt by a frail looking bannister, they now occupied a third story gallery which granted them a good overview. On ground level, large objects were standing around. These had halfway even intervals and it was unclear what their purpose could be. Maybe, this was some kind of exhibition room. In any case it was the first way down they had found and it was right over the core of the station.
Spread among the objects on ground-level, several teams of Tau were creeping towards the far side of the hall. They each had about half a dozen members but only one squad was sufficiently dressed for war.
Even in this emergency, the careful planning Aegis had undertaken bore fruit: Most of these warriors had been hustled from their beds. Or whatever Tau slept on.
Their bluish-grey skin and strange, gangly limbs marked them as true Tau, not any of their slave species.
The single squad in fire warrior uniform showed the distinctive red of the O’Shovah and was just moving up to the far side of the hall. Athuriel and Tsart had taken cover behind some kind of vehicle there.
Tau rifles were dangerous even for people in power armour. Under this onslaught, it certainly was only Tsart’s storm shield that had kept the two brothers alive.
There was a swarm of drones in the hall but it moved erratically and fell victim to Athuriel’s flamer right as the others stormed in. From here on, only single drones found their way to the fight on and off.
Titus and Aharran entered the hall firing. They spotted in an instant that the teams on the galleries were the bigger threat for their brothers. Their joined suppressive fire shooed the xenos away from their advantageous positions and drew most of their attention and forthcoming shots.
Vox meanwhile allowed himself to duck behind Titus’ storm shield for a moment but gently manoeuvred him up to the bannister so that he could peer down into the hall. Titus heard him sigh.
“That’s gonna hurt…”, his friend said. Then, he engaged his vox again. “Athuriel, abandon cover and retreat to the wall now!”
They saw Athuriel grab Tsart and drag him out of cover without hesitation and against their leader’s best efforts. All Tsart could do was to try to shield them while they entered the line of fire of most of the Tau on floor level.
Titus felt only a light tap on the shoulder when Vox jumped over him and the bannister alike. Just as he fell, Tiberius and Dankwart ran in to take up positions left and right from them.
It took two seconds for Vox to reach the ground and it could only have been due to the confusion among the xenos that Athuriel and Tsart survived that long.
All focus, Titus leaned over the bannister, intending to cover Vox. He thought that the others left this to him because he was his partner but as it turned out, Vox needed no covering.
Hardly slowed by the jump pack, the librarian hit the ground heavily and brought his blazing fists down.
Flames spilled through the hall like burning liquid. They roared through the vast space, for a moment forming the shape of six wings. They poured over and around everything, burning foes and objects alike, making drones fall like flies. Tau ran for a few steps before the heat consumed them.
Titus stared into the inferno his psyker unleashed. The part of his mind searching for targets was at a complete loss.
The fire did not reach the opposite wall, thus keeping the brothers who had retreated there safe but it missed them only by two or three paces. Once set free, the flames caught on some of the objects and shortly afterwards one of them exploded very close to Vox. Titus only heard it go off because he was already running. He had spotted a staircase leading downwards. On his way, he made more use of the hole in the floor than of the stairs themselves, jumping down in two long strides. A second flight of stairs brought him to ground level and he saw to his relief that Vox still knelt in the same spot where he had landed. He approached him hastily from behind and wanted to pull him away. The mad xenos had put some kind of tree in a pot close by. It was burning like a firework, shedding sparks and parts of it exploded outwards.
Titus had not anticipated that Vox might fight him. He only remained on his feet when the young man whirled around because his little brother botched his attempt to shoulder him aside. The librarian took a quick step back, steadied himself with one hand on the ground and drew his sword with the other. Only then did he seem to recognize Titus. The blade slid back into its sheath as fast as it had appeared and Vox stumbled forward. With the thunder shield on one arm, it was impossible to get a sensible grip on him before Titus had put his bolter away. This sorted out, he was finally able to drag his little brother towards the stairs.
Vox’s face was covered in blood, not only running from his eyes but also from the shrapnel the explosion had sent flying. To Titus’ relief, his friend managed to focus now. After a few steps, he had even sorted his legs out to a degree that he could run by himself.

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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.

One Comment

  1. Julia M. V. Warren June 3, 2020 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Chaplain down, mission endangered by setting off the alarm… How could things get even worse?
    Just wait until next week ]:->

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