92. Cut Short

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The shortcut turned out to be a pressure door in a wall that led out of the station. Vox shot Titus a glance. His armour was penetrated at several points but he only shrugged, smiled around his swollen face and put his helmet on. An Astartes’ power armour was fitted with a lot of back-up systems to keep its wearer alive in the void, even if it was damaged. If need be, a Space Marine could survive in space even without their armour. Since this was done by entering suspended animation they refrained from it in this case.
When everybody was prepped for the trip outside, the epistolary called to the machine spirit of the door. It confirmed his identity and let them through into a series of four narrow corridors, each separated by another heavy door. Corven had to confirm his identity to the machine spirit of the last bulkhead again. When he had done so, the door behind them closed, locking them into a space large enough for the three of them but not for many more. The lights dimmed, a rumble went up around them. They used the time to synchronise their voxes and clip their lifelines together. Afterwards, they waited and watched the reports of their auto senses about temperature, atmospheric pressure and oxygen levels.
After a while, the light went out and the door in front of them opened.
They emerged on the light side of the station to behold the magnificent, sentry gun littered, Gothic structures in harsh shadows. No enemy was welcome here. Their auto senses dimmed the light of the dying star they circled and all of them knew that the unshielded radiation would tan their skin until they entered the station again.
They oriented themselves and made their way towards the holding tract.
The hunting grounds and the holding areas were right next to each other. Inside, they would have been forced to take a massive detour through the core of the station. Here, they could make their way along the supporting structures. It turned out to be more complicated than first expected. Large areas were built of stone where their mag boots found no grip. The automatic defences slowed them down as well.
Corven had to announce and identify himself at several checkpoints. It turned out that he and Ferone had received training for this from the Deathwatch Keepers and Corven insisted that Vox and Titus were not to do this at home. They in turn engaged him in a philosophical dispute about the question if this really applied to them. They were permanent members of the Deathwatch and Erioch might be called their home. Instead of getting upset by this attempt to mock him, Corven joined them with aplomb and took the discourse even further in touching the question whether all of Aegis should be granted one of the artefact keys, the keepers carried over their vambraces. They concluded that, however much Tiberius would have liked that, it seemed a rather large security risk since they spent most of their time somewhere else.
Under these considerations, the half-hour of their tour flew by.
The outer parts of the holding area were largely unused nowadays. Although the doors should have been maintained anyway, the first one denied them access. Corven cursed a little but not much. The area they were heading towards was a lot closer to the core, they just made their way to the next door.
Once inside, they took up their stride again. They had been on the move for another five minutes when the two librarians suddenly groaned in unison. For once, Titus did not have to ask why. The whole station shook. They increased their speed as best Titus could. His wounds had not taken the exposure to the void very well and every step meant a fight against the pain.
“Sorry, Titus”, Corven said after a while. “Just catch us up as soon as you can.”
They speeded up but in the straight, central corridor they were still in line of sight when Vox voxed: “Incoming, two o’clock. Three, two, one.”
A gate ripped open. Both psykers had their force weapons ready and Titus had to smile under his helmet. Their style could hardly have been more different.
Corven fought like a real Space Wolf: Strength and vigour dominated his style. Often, he resorted to thrusting his lightning claws into the enemies while his double blades axe sought the next target. Sometimes, he just grabbed, twisted or ripped parts out, always striving for maximum damage to one point.
Vox, on the other hand, seemed to have a lot more time. She danced around the foes, dodged a pink limb here, severed a red arm there, casually skewered a daemon, always keeping Corven’s back free along the way. It had been only a handful of daemons. They were finished just when Titus had caught up with them.
“Come on!”, Vox urged and ran on, leaving her sergeant behind once more. They approached a t-crossing with corridors branching off to the left and right.
“Left!”, Vox demanded when Corven hesitated.
“Whatever”, he growled and turned left.
Titus had just closed in on the corner when Vox contacted him: “Serge, keep your distance!”
With an unpleasant smack a new rift ripped open between them, daemons spilling from it like a turned over cup of hell. It lasted only for a moment but afterwards, a sizable squad of red skinned, horned beasts separated them. They all chased after the running librarians at once.
Corven cursed. He and Vox were running towards two ornate staircases leading up to a higher level, a fountain between them.
“Titus, got a visual on us?”, the rune priest asked.
“Affirmative.”
“Crossed triangle!”, Corven called.
Titus hesitated for a split second but decided against pointing out that he had only training ammo at his disposal.
“On Vox”, he confirmed and took aim. They had trained this tactic more times than he cared to remember now. It was a good choice to deal with the mass of opponents in a spot like this and he would make up for the lack of efficiency somehow.
Having been ignored by all the daemons, Titus dropped to one knee to improve his aim. With his wounds the bolter’s recoil was harder to compensate than usual.
His comrades separated to speed up the stairs and with this drew the enemies apart as well. Titus decimated the half following Vox. This bought Corven the breathing space to step out of her way as soon as they had reached the top of the stairs. Now, she could engage his pursuers head on, while he took care of the remains of fiends that had managed to scramble over their falling comrades on her side.
Judging the situation under control, Titus dropped his guarding position and closed in. He met Vox at the bottom of the slippery stairs, where the friends congratulated each other with a quick slap to their shoulder guards.
Corven awaited them with the last struggling daemon under one foot.
“Haven’t used that one in a while”, Vox said happily.
“I told you, Tiberius was onto something”, Corven growled.
“I still dispute the value of this tactic apart from the sheer fun of it”, she gave back.
“Don’t distract”, the rune priest cut her short. “How the hell did you know where the rifts would open?”
“Did I never…?”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Oh”, Vox said. “I thought I told you.”
“You never told me that you can sense rifts before they happen”, he said flatly and shot the daemon.
“Well, I can.”
“And I bet, you can sense that rift even I just felt opening, right?”, the rune priest prompted nonchalantly.
“Sorry, I thought you were leading the way.”
“I am!”, Corven assured her. “Watch me! Just… tell me where to go.”
“Two stories down and a bit further to the core but I can’t tell you how to get there.”
“Alright”, Corven said, orienting himself by looking around. “Elevators are over there”, he stated then.
When they had reached one and Corven had managed to persuade the machine spirit that the highest ranking librarian of this fortress was allowed to travel downwards, the epistolary eyed Vox over for a moment and said: “You know, little brother, you really, really freak me out sometimes.”
Vox’s helmet briefly turned upwards. Then, she gently pushed Corven closer to the moving wall. In the elevator shaft above them, a rift opened and a few blue-skinned daemons smacked down in the middle of the moving platform. They burst open like overripe melons.
“As much as the fact that these daemons come in mixed flavours?”, Vox asked and slew the one surviving abomination with a calm, precise movement. The arch of her sword went through the fiend without noticeable interruption.
“More”, Corven said flatly.
“I am sorry for that”, Vox said and stood there, looking harmless. In power armour. With the carnage beside her.
Titus had to smile. How much he had missed her slightly crazy playfulness.
“What does that mean?”, he inquired, meaning the mixed daemons.
“You very rarely get more than one sort of daemon”, Corven explained briefly. “Something’s really fucked up here.”

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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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