46. Wake Up!

“Hold… on… to him”, Vox demanded slowly when Titus gave no answer. His words sounded hoarse and scratchy over the com. The librarian grasped Tiberius’ limp third arm and pushed all of them away from the wall. As they glided, he drew his bolt pistol, aimed it downwards and shot at the Necrons that crawled out of the control room. The repulsion of the weapon brought them up to the ceiling. Titus fiddled his last clip into his bolter and joined his little brother in his doing. From the corner of his eyes, he saw Vox lifting his hand. Flames danced around it and fused a hole into the window above them. He reached into it before it had cooled.
“Stop shooting”, Vox demanded when Titus had spent half his bullets. “And hold on!”
It turned out to be the hardest test of Titus’ confidence in the brother so far. Vox used him and Tiberius as bait to direct the shots of the Necrons in a circle around them. Swinging them from side to side, he did his best to twist out of the way of the enemy fire himself. The first shot penetrating the ceiling, brought a noise with it. It clearly told them that air friction was getting up outside and that their distance to the surface was limited.
Vox did his best but even though he was fast and accurate, he was not perfect. Each of them took several grazes before he gasped: “Now shoot!”
While Titus drove the enemies back for the few seconds his ammo lasted, Vox broke free from the glass he had fused himself to and tried to push the loosened part of the ceiling upwards. He had to resort to his warp fire again to melt the last, crucial connection. Pressing his feet into the ceiling, he heaved with all his might and suddenly, both window and shutter were caught in the rushing wind. They flipped around, the turbulence dragging the Space Marines along.
There was no way to get a coordinated hold on the shuttered dome spanning the centre of the station. Fortunately, the Gothic turret they hit was not far enough away to do serious damage.
They had landed at the foot of the tower and the air currents blew away the rubble when the patch of ceiling smashed into its top.
Vigorously, Titus rearranged the limp body of Tiberius and tried to get a hold on Vox, who was grovelling by his feet.
“Vox!”, he called out. “Don’t black out on me, do you hear?”
“Trying…”, Vox gasped.
“Don’t burst into the next warp rift either if you can help it.”
“Trying hard…”, he said and finally managed to get a grip on Titus’ outstretched hand.
Huddling together, they formed a protective coil against the onrushing forces.
“Brother?”, Vox said hoarsely and Titus felt his breath heaving even through the armour. “You might… want to ready… a weapon.”
“We’ll get through this, do you hear me?”, Titus replied insistently.
Vox’s helmet sagged forward and the librarian went very still.
Titus cursed.
The first Necrons were crawling out of the hole they had caused. He looked up where the damaged tower had broken away, wished they had a jump pack and turned upwards. The headwind had so much pressure that it held them in place firmly enough for Titus to run up the tower, dragging his comrades with him. Under the hail of Necron fire, he managed to reach the edge. Without stopping, he pushed away and twisted to get in a position where he could sensibly open his parachute.
It was a dangerous thing to do. Not only were there several more towers in the way, they also were still quite high in the atmosphere. The reduced air density might have led to the parachute not opening correctly but this time, they were lucky.
The chute dragged them out of reach of Necrons and turrets alike and, for a heartbeat, Titus could behold the magnificent sight of the station falling away under them.
Then their good fortune was spent.
To compensate for the drag, both conscious warriors had been clinging to each other but suddenly, Vox went limp.
Titus reacted quickly, tried to snatch him back but he slipped his grasp and fell.
Connected to their armour, the parachutes were opened and disengaged by a thought alone.
The thought that abandoned Titus’ chute had no time to become conscious. Immediately, he went after his friend. It was incredibly hard to manoeuvre towards him while still holding on to the probable corpse of his techmarine but he was not prepared to let him go just yet. Dead or not would have to be determined later. In the meantime, he needed to find a way for the two of them to provide less air resistance to gain on the falling Vox. Titus took the precaution to reconnect his lifeline to Tiberius and then busied himself with wiggling around until he produced the desired effect.
It took almost half of their drop distance before Titus finally got a grip on his little brother. Unfortunately, yelling into the vox produced no effect. The black shield remained unresponsive.
Titus let go of Tiberius, the lifeline straining between them. Unused to the mechanisms of the Mark VI, he nevertheless managed to get Vox’s helmet off. Not knowing what to do with it otherwise, he clipped it to the joist on his own belt. The librarian looked like he had been beaten up badly. Blood and bruises darkened his pale skin. At least, the violently rushing air whipping his long hair into his face had the desired effect: Vox woke up.
He looked around in bewilderment and it took almost a second for the trained warrior to get a grip on the situation. When he did, Titus saw him shaking his head in horror. His lips framed an inaudible “No!”.
Only a heartbeat later, the librarian pulled himself together and started to act with purpose. They reeled Tiberius in and Vox slung his legs around him while Titus held onto both of them as tightly as he could. Now, it was up to Vox to open his parachute. In the denser air, the drag was more powerful than before. It almost separated them again but this time, their joined strength sufficed.
With the three of them hanging on one parachute, they would not slow down at the normal rate and there was no sensible way to steer. At least they probably would survive the impact this way.
When Titus peered down, however, he realised that they could survive the fall all they liked. Withstanding the masses of daemons under them was out of the question. Especially with a stricken Vox and a lifeless Tiberius at his side.
Everything below them was sheer mayhem.
The station had been falling at an angle and the ensuing turbulences had pulled them too close to the main rift. They could see the giant vessel crash down on the far side of it, biting into the luckless city and collapsing another tower. Hopefully, enough Necrons would be left alive to fight the forces of chaos.
With this, their goal would have been achieved.
Titus was still thinking feverishly about what to do next. He made out swarming daemons on all surfaces below them. They could probably survive them for a few… seconds.
They had Tiberius’ parachute left if they could get it to open via the integrated emergency mechanism but, even though Titus remembered the training for this, he was at a loss as to how this could benefit them. He tried to vox the rest of Aegis but got only static.
When he turned to Vox he found that the friend had his eyes closed. His lips moved in prayer. Somehow, the sight of this made Titus give in. All the time, he had denied the knowledge that they would die on this mission, had struggled with all his might towards keeping them alive. Now, he felt himself letting go, sinking away, accepting his imminent end. It was almost a shame that this was the moment the thunderhawk appeared under them.

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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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