Chapter 3 – Out of the Fire
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\\ ++ :: Beginning Scene Reconstruction :: ++ /

[:: Inloading Data-Packet; Lt. Tomas Foley :: ]

\\ ++ :: Continue Record Playback :: ++ /

 

The last thing Tomas could recall, is the sight of the vibrant world beyond the view-port and the cold grated steel of the deck-plating racing upward to crash against him. He’d stir slightly, blearily blinking and trying to clear his vision as he places a hand upon the deck, slowly pushing himself over onto his back. The intense pain that wracked his frame caused him to double over, shuddering as the very bones within his body implored him to remain inert. 

    Such a luxury was not available to him, as a shifting blur kneels down alongside him, faintly the image resolving as he focuses his gaze slowly trying to make out the image before him. He was staring at the hooded face of the Skitarii, the crimson robe somewhat torn and frayed, the steel lenses and heavy rebreather covering the entirety of his face in dull burnished steel, as Gamma reaches over with an artificial hand, his bionic limbs clicking as it grabs hold of Tomas’s collar, giving him a violent shake, as his synthesized voice echoes from the vox unit built into his rebreather.

    “Lieutenant, you have not suffered any significant damage to vital organ structures, therefore you are alive and well. Alert: The Cogitators aboard the vessel report we have entered the gravity well of a previously uncharted world, however interference is present. Location: Unknown.  Addendum: My auspex sensors are reporting weapons discharge a dozen meters from our location: I postulate that the Tech-Priestess Attona is under attack due to binary cant broadcast she is emitting. We must escalate our efforts to reach her.”

    Lt. Foley is jarred about as the world sharply resolves before him, fighting off the greying edges of his vision as he hauls himself upright. He’d nod along with Gamma as he updated him to their current predicament, casting an errant glance to see that Ceres and Vicktor were groggily getting to their feet and fumbling to recover their weapons from the jarring impact.  As Gamma finishes, Tomas moves to recover the las-pistol that had fallen from his holster on impact, thumbing on its power cell as it thrums in his palm. 

    “Y-yeah I got ya Gamsie, Alright head need to get moving then, ain’t no point is dallying about. Ceres and Vicktor, take point, we are two junctions down from the Priestess and the Cog-Boy here is saying we got gunfire. Let’s move.” 

    He’d rise shakily to his boots, as Vicktor and Ceres snatch up their arms and jog past him, heading further down the corridor, their void-armor clanking and causing a dull din in the otherwise silent hall.  Tomas gives Gamma a solid slap on the flat lorica style shoulder guard of the Skitarii before indicating ahead, another errant glance cast out the window, revealing the tattered state of the vessel as the flames of re-entry lap and bite at her aged hull. Tomas calls back to Gamma as they headed forth,

“Oi, Gamma, what’s the status of the ship has the Magos issued any updates?”

The Skitarii briskly moves in pace with Tomas, his bionic and artificial legs working effortlessly to keep pace with the Lt. He’d cast a glance with his hooded head towards Foley and speak up curtly.

“Negative: But judging by the vox-chatter, I am to understand that the forward batteries have fallen to an unknown attacker. Addendum: The Magos has confirmed there are seditious elements within the crew, as menials from the lower decks have raided the armories there and are fighting Guard units within the vessel.”

Tomas grimaces as they moved to stack up with Voidsmen as they reached one of the nearby junctions, the two Voidsmen moves to either side of the four-way split in the corridor, clearing either side before they signal for their compatriots it was clear.  The quartet moves rapidly down several of the auxiliary/support corridors, the bare and exposed conduit and wiring bear the tell-tale scarring of las-rifle fire and deep pockmarks of auto-gun slugs. As ever so swiftly did the the barking rumble of auto-gun fire grow closer and closer. 

As the quarter reaches the final junction they finally fall into sight of their Tech-Priestess in question, however as shots race down the corridor they hold themselves off within the cover of several inlets and bulk-heads whilst observing the furious exchange unfolding before them.

The Priestess had managed to gather up a fair collection of heavy munition crates and had hastily welded them together into an ad-hoc barricade. Several heavy wall plating had been cut away, and used to re-enforce the crudely formed defensive position with surprising effectiveness. The crimson robed form of the tech-adapt is hunkered down behind the thick slab of the corridor’s paneling, her own heavily augmented and armored form pitted and scarred with glancing auto-gun shells and the blackened marks where las-bolts had impacted and warped the plating. 

    As the quartet watched, a figure raced down one of the adjacent corridors,  clad in the plain grey cover-alls of one of the lower deck menials. The menial moves towards the barricade howling like mad as he clasped a crude auto-gun tightly in his fist, blasting away wildly as he charged.  As he’d reach the edge of the barricade, the Priestess spring upright, upon her back were several clanking servo-arms, grafted augments with repair equipment ready for use. She has one of these additional servo-arms to lunge over her shoulder with a closed vice into the man’s face, causing him to stagger and halt the fire from his weapon. With a crisp action, she’d snap up a las-pistol in her grip and squeeze off several shots, causing the man to crumple motionless before her as she ducks back down into cover as a hailstorm of auto-gun shots ripple across her faltering barricade. 

Tomas  surveys the scene, before indicating to the two Voidsmen, as he moves up alongside them, gesturing towards the end of the corridor. 

“Alright, you two, move to the end and start throwing las-bolts down that bloody corridor, force em to keep their heads down. Once they are…” He’d cast a glance over to Gamma, and indicate between the two of them, “... You and I are gonna grab the Priestess and cross to the corridor beyond her, as that is where we need to be headed. After that, we lean from that corridor edge, and throw shots down the corridor so that Viktor and Ceres can cross and move to us, after that we bolt for the savior pod chamber, questions?”

Vicktor and Ceres  sharply nod, with the former reaching up to drop down a visor over his face as a wordless acknowledgement. The duo move forward and stack themselves at the corridor’s edge, with Ceres knelt and Vicktor standing, they wait till the torrent of shots slowed from their unseen attackers, before leaning out and firing.

    True to their instruction, both of the las-rifles release a hissing fusilade of las-fire down range, the air filled with the scent of o-zone as the rifles chatter and spit crimson bolts towards the traitorous menials, whom halt their fire and cower behind what cover they can. With the menials distracted, Gamma and Tomas rapidly move, crossing the corridor as swiftly as they can, each step causing Tomas heartbeat to thunder in his chest, as he watches the Priestess position grow closer and closer.  

The Priestess Attona  rises up, taking note of the the lull in fire, to squeeze off a few shots herself, before Tomas arrives and takes hold of her shoulder, wordlessly indicating to the corridor opposite his team. With a brisk nod, the Priestess moves with Tomas and Gamma, the latter leveling his galvanic rifle down the corridor and squeezing off a shot as a arching bolt of shark azure, that shrieks down the corridor and strike one of the menials as they lean forth from cover. The man was kicked back and thrown back into the shadow of the corridor beyond. 

    As the trio successfully at the designated corridor, they equally lean out in turn and cast errant shots down the corridor, Tomas and Attona squeezing off las-bolts from their side-arms as swiftly as possible as deadly bolts of blue light race down the corridor precisely from Gamma’s long rifle, unerringly precise in it's accuracy and effect.  With the Priestess secure, Vicktor and Ceres pull away from the safety of their cover, hastily moving across the corridor to join their companions.

Vicktor staggers however, as an errant shot from a blind fired auto-gun strikes his void-armored side, kicking out a shower of sparks as he staggers and fights to keep upright. He’d manage to clear the corridor and stagger wheezing sharply as he placed his hand over the impact point, the shot having failed to penetrate the armor, but certainly carried enough kinect force to knock the wind from him and bruise his ribs.

With the group assembled fully, they throw a few more lingering shots down the corridor towards the menials, giving Vicktor time to recover and catch his breath, before Tomas barks out his orders.

“Alright we are clear, get moving to the chamber, it's just up-ahead, once we are in, Attona seal the door and lock us in.”

And with that the contingent move down the corridor heading for the distant set of blast-doors. Their bootsteps rang as they raced by carbon scored steel and twisted conduit and paneling, several deep marks betraying the use of explosives. Tomas grits his teeth, something wasn’t adding up, if this was the best the traitors could muster, then how in the Emperor’s light could they have lost the forward weapon batteries of the ship? 

The first of their group to reach the corridor’s end is Tomas himself, he’d clear the final bulk-head and find himself standing with the savior-pod bay light by the dull red of the emergency lighting. Across the far side of the wall, sit the entry hatches for nearly a dozen savior-pods meant for the bridge crew of the ship. The nearby cogitator patiently thrumming and idly waiting for input as Tomas directs Gamma and Ceres over to it, his binary cant curt as he begins to check over the status of the savior pods.

Meanwhile, Attona rapidly works at the controls for the doors as the vast and heavy slab of adamantite starts to slide ponderously closed, with the last straggler Viktor managing to leap over the slowly rising slab of reinforced doorway’s locks.  Tomash leans out, squeezing off a few extra shots down the corridor as he spied the menials massing at the far end where they had come from. He’d throw his glance towards Attona as the door closes at a rate he swore must have been a jest.

“Attona! Close this damnable bulk-head! The traitors are massing and the last thing I want is for them to push us whilst we are exposed here!”

He swiftly kneels down behind the slowly rising section of the bulk-head’s door, as amidst the whistle and coughing chatter of the distant autoguns, a deep thunderous bassy boom echoes from the menials end of the corridor.  Tomas’s eyes widen as he watches a shrieking bolt of fire scream down the corridor as if towards him, a shrieking gyro-jet bolter shell vomiting orange-yellow flames from it streaks down the corridor’s length and impact against the door, several inches from Tomas’s face. He’d pull his head back, as the shell detonates casting hot white hot shards of molten steel in all directions. These hot shards peppering his face and the heat flaring against his face as he collapses backward. His good eye opens and stares down the corridor as his face grows deathly pale.

Towering head and shoulder above the hunched form of the menials they cowered beyond the distant corridors edge, a towering shadow looms forth.  The indistinct figures heavy and wide pauldrons and armor clad form radiated and aura of dreadful fear as he stared at unmistakable form of a the monstrous Astarte’s figure born from the depths of his worst nightmares. This towering warrior takes another step down the corridor, a squat and heavy bolter tightly in their grip as they fire again, the mass-reactive shell racing forth and exploding against the closing doorway, as the figure draws closer, cloaked in the shadow from the fading illuminators overhead.  

The last thing Tomas saw, he could have sworn was his own terrified face staring back him him, from the hulking figures glowing crimson visor upon its helm, shortly before the heavy and bulky slabs of adamantite slams closed, their various heavy locks sealing and groaning as Attona shifts and steps back, nodding as the door-panel reports it's sealing with a trio of audible tones. The Priestess glances down at Tomas, who was visibly shaking and kneel down to inspect him, her own voice, whilst amplified by a vox built into a rebreather she wore, came forth as  entirely human.

“Lieutenant? Are you well, you have received indirect damage to your organic frame. Do you require medical attention for your injuries?”

Tomas reaches up with a shaky hand and grab hold of Attona’s robe’s heem, indicating towards the door with fear written upon his face,

“Did… Did you see it?! Down the corridor! With the traitors! Did you see it damn it!”

Attona pauses, reaching down to pry Foley’s hand from her oil stained red robe, before she glances at the sealed bulkhead, then back to the panic stricken officer. 

“Negative:  I know not what you're speaking of? What did you see? If it was more of the traitors I am not surprised, their numbers had been growing since they first caught me trying to make my way here to the savior pods.”

Tomas shook his head, indicating towards the door as he fights to get his breathing under control, the unrelenting terror of that glowing visor burned into his mind as he slowly collects himself, pushing himself up to into a seated position.

“N-No, it was an Astarte, a damnable Astarte…. It tried to kill me! It was a Traitorous Legionnaire… A-An thrice damned Angel of Death, there to clever my soul for it's foul masters. You heard that shot, it was a bolter, unmistakably!”

Attona watches him, expression unreadable as she shakes her head, moving to clasp Tomas’s shoulder and haul him to his feet. A quick brush of her hand knocks away the fragments of metal left from the initial bolter shells impact. 

“Lt. Foley, you are suffering from combat induced hallucinations,  which are entirely believable given the combat situation your men endured back on Ichorous V and now here due to this mutiny. I can confirm I did hear the distinctive bark of a bolter, but more than likely it was merely recovered by one of the menials and put into use against us. You are in charge of this unit, kindly recover command and issue further orders. We cannot risk losing your capability to combat induced stress. Are you with me, Lieutenant?” 

 Tomas places his hand against his face, feeling the slight heat-burn from the explosive shells reaction so close to his face. He’d stare at the heavy blast-door and nod gruffly, knowing full well she was indeed right, as they all were counting on him to get the situation back on its feet. He’d glance over to spy Ceres and Vicktor watching Gamma rapidly work at the control console as he cants in binary and exchanges data with the information terminal along the wall. 

    Tomas rises to his feet with the aid of Attona before moving alongside the trio huddled before the data-terminal. Tomas clears his dry throat and speaks up as he worked to regain his composure. 

    “Alright Gamma, give us the news, update our instructions and tell us what our new orders are.”

    Gamma pauses for a moment, as if taking in some unseen and unexpected instruction, as he unteethers himself from the data-terminal, wheeling about to address the group in a flat and monotone artificial voice.

    “Objectives Updated: Magos Gretia has instructed all Adeptus Mechanicus elements to abandon ship, this instruction is final. Addendum: Commodore Terval has issued the orders to abandon ship. The vessel is in a decaying orbit, combat reports indicate that the engine room is lost, we are falling.  Precise orders for our unit were not provided: As all attempts to query the bridge have failed… Thus the next step falls to you Lieutenant.”

    Tomas glances at the tired and weary faces of the Voidsmen before him, and the stoic unmoving expressions of the Skitarii and Priestess. He shifts and takes a step back, placing his hand atop his helmet, as he glances back towards the sealed bulkhead, his jaw working as he mulls over his options. Before anything, he’d tap his comms-bead in his ear, only to be greeted by hissing static. So they truly were on their own.

    Lt. Foley nods his head slowly, and indicate to Gamma with a slow raise of the hand,

    “Alright, get the savior pods, online. We are gonna take one of em down planet side and try and rally up with whatever the hell is able to get off this ship. Once there we will get further orders. More than likely senior level officers have already been able to make it out of here as they were headed back to the hanger. We need to find them and add our numbers to their rosters. Questions?”

    Ceres pauses, glancing around as the rest of the group nods their affirmation, Gamma moving over to prep the nearest pod for launch, as she speaks up quickly a wavering worry in her voice.

    “But, Lieutenant, what about the bridge staff? We can’t just abandon them up there by themselves. Shouldn’t we head back and at least try and escort them back to the pods?”

    Tomas shook his head, giving Attona and Vicktor a pat on their shoulders indicating towards the waiting pod. As the two of them move off and board the craft, Tomas gingerly takes hold of Ceres shoulder.

    “Voidsmen, your courage is admirable, inspiring even. But there is a at least two fire-teams worth of menials outside of that door along with heavy weapons. If we open that door, they flood in here and we lose control of the chamber and we end up dead. Our best bet is to get planetside and rally with those that remain…” His tone softens, knowing full well that Voidsmen swear from their inception to their post to protect their fellows and officers unwaveringly “... But this ain’t no simulation or drill, and if you end up getting caught by the menials, you being dead won’t help them folks on the bridge. We’ve done what we can, now we have to survive.”

Ceres stares forlornly at the sealed blast-door for a few long moments before nodding her head numbly, turning round to head back for the open pod, a numb affirmation of his orders all he received. 

With the other secured, Tomas moves over to Gamma over at the data-terminal and slap his hand upon his shoulder, gesturing to the craft, to which the Skitarii wordlessly disconnects from the terminal and moves with the Lieutenant into the crafts cramped interior. Nestled on either side of a cramped interior nearly a dozen seats with heavy crash-harnesses for each. The group boards quickly and takes spaced seats from one another as Gamma moves into the flight control throne. With several nimble dances of his augmented hand upon the surface of the control display, the heavy door at the pods aft slams closed with a hiss. 

Tomas takes his seat at the head of the pod, nearest to Gamma as he snags hold of the data-display hung on a swivel arm, and brings it level to his face, a few quick taps and the pic-capture pods on the outside of the pod whirrs to life. A few heart beats more and the explosive bolts of the savior’s pods claps release, the sudden kick of g-forces shoving Tomas back into his crash-harness as he watched the screen before him as it shook violently. 

The pod was spiraling away from the vast form of the wounded cruiser, fires billowed from various damaged sections of the ship’s hull, the heavy hanger bays had slid open and out from them soared dense shoals of smaller craft, ranging from the fat and stubby strike craft of Imperial Thunderbolts, to the squat and angular forms of Valkyries, the Imperial forces were scattering like rats from a sinking ship. As he watched, savior pods began to erupt from all over the ship, soaring out and weaving among one another as they raced towards the twilight of the late evening of the planet below.

 A sudden explosion ripples across the vast frame of the ancient warship as the heavy broadside batteries just before the warships bladed prow expand  and explode outward in a thunderous roar, the vast weapons swung heavy in their mounts before either being sheared away by the blast or sinking down into the hull. As Tomas watchs the vast form of the wounded and doomed vessel suddenly lurches to life, it's main drives firing as she slowly turns herself into the decent course she was taking towards the planet far below. 

Tomas balks and call out to Gamma as the buffeting waves of turbulence rock and buck the fat form of the savior pods,

“Gamma! What on Terra is the ship doing? Is Commodore Terval still in control of the Blade of Woe? What is that madman doing?”

Gamma pull his attention away from the controls of the vessel, his grip upon the yoke as he flatly replies.

“Confirmed: Magos Gretia reports that he opted to remain behind with some of the bridge crew, he will be attempting to bring the vessel down as he is trying to preserve what material is aboard for salvage after it makes it's decent.”

Tomas shakes his head, watching as the wounded warship refuses to bow, and slowly maneuvers herself down towards the terrain far below her with as much grace and dignity she can muster. Lt. Foley merely give a silent prayer for the noble Commodore, hopeful he’d be able to thank him in person for the nobility of this work he has elected to undertake.

This revere is sharply shattered when Gamma leans back and rattles another report off to Tomas, an air of unease even on his monotone voice.

“Warning: Incoming unidentified contacts from the surface.  We have breached the atmosphere, there are several unknown contacts on an intercept course for our vessel.”

Tomas pulls the pic-screen closer and rapidly and brings up the view from the pic-capture, the display flickering as the pod has dropped deep into the atmosphere. Faintly he can see indistinct forms racing up from the earth on a course for them and the fleeing Imperials flight craft that poured forth from the doomed mothership. 

Gamma pauses, before frantically adjusting several of the controls laid before him, and hauling the yoke aside as the savior pod dips heavily to the right, his urgency rising,

“Warning!: Unidentified contacts are not replying to hails on Imperial broad-band vox network. Addendum: Optical observation reveals…” Gamma pauses almost as if in disbelief, “Warning! Warning! Incoming contacts are airborne via unknown means, single man-sized targets are flying unassisted and engaging with energy weapons! Beginning evasive maneuvers.”

The Skitarii rolls hard to the left, as a dull clatter echoes off the outer skin of the escape craft. The pod is soon bathed in bright red light as a blistering bolt of energy of yellow-red hue shrieks through the armored skin of the pod, melting and boiling a hole in it before rifling out the opposite side. Several more follow suit as the rear most engines of the escape craft sputter and erupt in a ball of fire. The rear of the vessel is aflame as dozens of holes have appeared across the ships hull, a dense black cloud rolling from the rear of the ship that marks it's path across the sky. 

Tomas spares a glance as the pod violently shakes up towards Gamma and the front window,  the front view-port peppered with holes the size of a human finger, Gamma’s firm grip on the controls betraying his unnoticed damage as a rivulet of crimson weeps from a  several penetrating hole in his armored lorica’s side. Beyond the view-port the dense canopy of green races up to meet them at terrifying speeds, 

Gamma placidly and calmly intone a binary cant, of which Tomas could swear was tantamount to a prayer as he manually drew back the throttle, the nose of the savior pod erupting in a ball of fire as the retro-grade landing thrusters erupt in fire. The G-force violently throw Tomas against his harness hard enough for him to black out, his fellow occupants not faring much better as the earth and ground reached up and shattered the cock-pits viewport and welcomed the flaming pod into its embrace at a speed no mortal could ever wish to endure.

With the groan of twisted hull plating and the shattering crack of branches from the trees over the earth, the savior pod crashes down into the soft earth below, skipping once as it crashes through and incenerates shrubs and small plant life, before it noses down into a small creek bed, is frame coming to rest as roiling clouds of smoke billow up into the nights sky as the forests quiet slowly returned once more. 

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