44. Limited Option
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“There is something we can do”, Vox said quietly and leaned forward. He rubbed his face distractedly.
“Shit, I’m sorry…”
“Stop being sorry, start being efficient”, Titus demanded calmly. “You have a plan, tell us!”
Their librarian looked around with bloodshot eyes. One of them still had a black rim.
“I want to make it clear that I wouldn’t suggest this if I saw any other way, right?”
“Right”, Titus reassured him and the others gathered around closer.
“We will not make it to the Mandeville point”, Vox declared and they all tensed. This was new.
“Almond is too unstable already. It will collapse and the swirl will consume us. We are too late to get away. With me so far?”
They all nodded.
“Alright. We can’t conduct any form of biological or chemical exterminatus because it would cause the population to suffer for too long and make things even worse. What we could do, if we could, is to simply blast the planet to bits. This should remove any life forms, causing swirls in the warp fast enough and end the whole thing. What we need for that is time because we need to fetch help.” Vox drew a deep breath and looked around blearily. They all tensed for the solution he would present after this build up.
“There is a space station in orbit over the planet”, Vox said quietly. “It contains about a hundred-thousand dormant Necrons without their overlord. If we drop the station close enough to the main rift, they will become active again and could buy us the time to get enough firepower over here to blast Almond to bits.”
There was silence.
Long, baffled silence.
Solomon was the first to speak. Unfortunately, he asked one of the irrelevant questions at this point.
“How do you know that?”
“I’m… the librarian. It’s in the archives”, Vox managed and by the way he had hesitated, Titus knew at once that he was telling them something he knew from before he had joined the Deathwatch. Nothing else could be the case.
“There is a space station crammed with Necrons over Almond and you are telling me that the Inquisition didn’t know or do something about this?”, Solomon continued.
“You’re in no position to question what I give you, mortal!”, Vox suddenly roared and brought both his fists down on the floor, right in front of the man. The legate jumped back, staring at the dents, caused by the librarian’s punch.
Titus grabbed his little brother by the arm before matters got worse. He had seen how tightly strung Vox was. The others had obviously missed it.
“Vox, calm down!”, he demanded. The friend’s head snapped around to Titus and it was as if he awoke from his fury. He shut his eyes for a moment, breathed deeply. Even through the armour, Titus felt him relax. Then he started to shiver.
When Vox came back, he seemed sharp and hard like a blade. The slight tremor continued to run through him but his voice was steady and his gaze worryingly intent. He radiated a kind of merciless purpose he seldom displayed.
“If you’d listen: I am proposing to do something about this state of affairs”, he told Solomon pointedly. “Of course, I’m fully prepared to hear out better plans.”
Most of them looked away when he met their gazes one by one. Only Titus and Merth shook their heads without breaking eye contact.
“I can get us to the control room alive”, Vox declared when he had assessed this. “There should be enough power left in the station to leave orbit if Tiberius can convince the machine spirit to do so. If we get it down close enough to the rift, the consumption of the planet should be delayed enough.” He frowned only slightly when he added: “I don’t have a plan for extraction.”
“Then only the two of us will go”, Tiberius said calmly.
“No”, Titus disagreed. “If you’re lacking plans, I demand to be taken along!”
He had expected Vox to try and make him stay behind because of his injuries but his little brother only nodded.
“Yes, but no more”, the librarian said. “You’re in the lead as far as I’m concerned.”
“Tiberius, are you alright with this?”, Titus checked politely.
“Yes, Titus”, the techmarine answered.
Titus sat and thought for a moment.
“Do we have parachutes on board?”
“Good. We’ll need one each. Vox, you can find that space station from here?”
“No, but surveillance will.” He stood up and looked down at Titus. His left eye had started to cloud over in blood red.
“I’ll arrange matters”, he said and swayed to the ladder.
“You do that”, Titus said and turned to the others, trying to conceal his concern. They had just volunteered for a suicide mission. Things would not get easier if Vox went over the edge.
“Gradus, I’m very sorry but I require you to go up into the cockpit until we have been set down.”
“But don’t despair”, Tiberius said happily, throwing down a parachute in their middle. “I found you clothing.”
“To avoid death by embarrassment?”, Merth asked, smiling amusedly while Vyron handed him his combat knife.
“Indeed, sergeant”, Tiberius said and Titus shot Merth a surprised glance. He had not anticipated that Gradus might have a sergeant with them. Why had the man said nothing to establish this? Why had Vox dismissed his title when addressing him earlier? His little brother returned and interrupted this train of thought.
“We’re on our way”, the librarian reported curtly. While Tiberius started affixing the first parachute to him, he informed them: “We are not far away, only a few minutes.”
Shortly afterwards, he tried to help Tiberius with his parachute in return. He needed guidance through the rites and stumbled over most of the words until Dankwart gently pushed him aside and took over. Titus was allowed to sit around until last. He used the time to exchange a few quiet words with Solomon. The legate promised that they would stay in reach and try to pick them up, should they make it out of the station alive.
When the brothers pulled him to his feet, his leg tested well. He could already put weight on it.
Tiberius sealed Titus’ armour as best he could in the shortness of time. That they could technically survive in the void, did not mean that they had to do it for reasons of insane machismo alone.
“So, your plan is basically to get out of the falling station and then float around in the hope we are picked up?”, Vox asked while Tiberius recited his binary prayers over the connections for Titus’ parachute.
“Basically, my plan is a bit different”, their leader said with a patient smile. “But it will probably end like that, yes”, he had to concede. “Do you see problems I’ve missed?”
“Oh, no”, Vox said nonchalantly. “I’m sure we won’t encounter turbulences from warp storms and falling space stations at all.”
“I’ve thought of that”, Titus said, his smile widening to a grin.
“Sometimes, it bothers me that I can’t read the future as soon as you’re in it”, Vox admitted and seemed happier than all day.
“Why? It should finally make your life interesting.”
“Right!”, he agreed in apparent delight. “I suffer from terrible boredom most of the time.”
“Then thank the Emperor I’m here to finally cure you of that.”
“I thank Him every day”, he said, his smile broadening. “Sometimes even for you.”
Titus had to laugh.
After this exchange, it was time for Aegis to put their helmets on.The atmosphere changed. Since the brothers, who would stay behind, did not intend to make use of their ranged weaponry, they provided Titus and Tiberius with their spare bolter clips to compensate for the ammo spent on the surface and handed out their remaining grenades as well. When they were done, Gradus had disappeared into the cockpit and Titus engaged their team line.
“Dankwart, can you test Genestealer infestation in the field?”, he inquired.
“Not very accurately.”
“It will have to do”, Titus decided. “Test Gradus. Start with the sergeant. If I knew my fellow Genestealer had been spotted and wanted to stay inconspicuous, I’d just pose a suggestion like he did.”
“Understood”, their apothecary confirmed.
“Heartrocks, you stand ready to help him if someone goes hostile on you. Important safety tip: We’ll take the techmarine along. Make sure the crew is out of the way first.”
One of the twins sniggered under his helmet.
“And now”, Titus said, closing the channel to address only Tiberius and Vox while he held his hand out for them, palm up. “We will take an Oath of Secrets, brothers!”
“What? Why?”, Vox asked in a baffled tone of voice.
“For you, little brother”, Titus replied softly. “Because you shared something from under your black shield to help us out.”
“Don’t look at me!”, Tiberius demanded when they simultaneously looked at him. “I don’t think we’ll need an oath to keep secrets after this.”
“Your optimism warms my hearts”, Titus said good-humouredly.
“I haven’t prepared any oath”, Vox noted meekly.
“Just feed me the lines”, Titus asked patiently. The suggestion made the friend laugh.
“Then I’m taking the oath alone, the wording is a bit… Well, let’s just say, usually a kill team takes an Oath of Secrets if a librarian leads.”
“Then just take the oath”, Titus decided. “If anyone wants to punish us for this lapse he can discuss it with us when we get back.”
Vox wanted to rub his face again but his raven beaked helmet got in the way.
“Alright”, he said, thinking the wording over for a moment. “Confirm my request three times and then repeat the second part of my sentence three times. After that, it’s the usual ending.” They nodded and Vox intoned: “Brothers, hear my call!”
“We hear your call!”
“Brothers, see the truth!”
“We see the truth!”
“Brothers, know the forbidden!”
“We know the forbidden!”
“What emerges from darkness, it shall stay in darkness!”
“It shall stay in darkness!”
“What becomes apparent, it shall be forgotten!”
“It shall be forgotten!”
“What comes to the light, it shall be hidden!”
“It shall be hidden!”
“The Emperor guides us, humanity needs us, the xenos fear us!”
“For the Emperor, for humanity, against the alien we stand!”
They let go of each other.
“We shouldn’t have air, gravity or light in there”, Vox informed them, matter-of-factly and added: “As far as I know, there are no reports of dormant Necrons reacting to radar but to everything else including any activities in the warp. And that’s only if we’re lucky”, he added.
“If they react, this will be a short trip”, Titus noted. “So, we keep radio silent, set our auto senses to radar and try not to touch them when we find them. Without air, at least we don’t have to worry about noise. Anything else you can tell us?”
Vox shook his head. With this, they fell silent and the others left them alone. Aegis as a whole was content in the knowledge that the three of them were headed into quite certain death. It was Tiberius who disturbed the silence of the doomed. He started to pray and Vox and Titus joined him until the warning lights went on and the oxygen levels dropped.
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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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