Sergeant Nim kept himself low, watching the Hellsreign forces pour into the square below his vantage point in one of the support towers at the foot of the bridge. As their numbers swelled he cursed, then said, "Sweet Emperor preserve us." Three hulking Chaos dreadnoughts were coming up the streets leading to the square, and he could just make out a Land Raider in the distance. Nim sent a priority comm request to the Captain, and Keel put him through immediately, "Captain, you'd better hurry, or the traitors are going to hold the party without you."

Hector's transmission was filled with the background the whine of jump-packs firing, "Fear not brother, we are come!"

Fear didn't enter into it. Nim risked a quick look over his shoulder, and saw flashes of bright red rhinos and the forms of assault marines leaping from rooftop to rooftop. He sighed in relief, then said, "I've got three dreadnoughts in the square , backed by a land raider and three squads of traitors. Unconfirmed numbers of forces have entered on the far side of the bridge, I can't make out their position from here."

"Don't worry about them, the Victrix Astartes are covering the bridge, I need you to keep those dreadnoughts busy so we can get the men in.

Nim only said, "What!" before getting control of himself and saying, "Yes sir, Nim out." He shook his head and wondered how in the eye the captain could expect him to tie up three dreadnoughts with a heavy bolter and a few sniper rifles. "Brothers, the Captain wants us to keep these dreadnoughts busy. Do any of you have an idea that doesn't involve a premature visit to the Blessed Emperor?"

Everyone in the squad was staring at him like he might be mad, and Nim was starting to believe they were right. Then Brother Jon smiled, "I've got an idea."

Nim frowned as hard as the rest of the squad, as they all knew Jonn was mad, "This had better be good." Below Nim could hear the heavy footfalls of the approaching dreadnoughts, "we don't have much time."

Jonn stood up and said, "Watch this." Then he stuck his head out the window and started shouting, "Hey you ugly bastards! Bet you can't hit this!" Then he spun around, stuck his rear out the window, and yanked down his fatigue pants, showing both cheeks to the square below.

"Emperor's teeth, get him down from there!" Nim shouted, and Ricks and Will hauled Jonn out of the window. "Are you trying to get us killed?"

Jonn was rolling on the floor laughing, "Just watch." Then he shouted again, "Your mother was a plaguebearer!" before Ricks put a hand over his mouth.

Nim carefully looked out the window. Below, no more than thirty yards away, one of the dreadnoughts had turned to face their perch, and was leveling the unmistakable form of a Plasma cannon at them. "Say your prayers brothers, we're dead."

Then another dreadnought further up the street started screaming, clearly enraged at Jonn's taunts. Not having found the source, and for lack of a better target began to pour lascannon fire into the dreadnought below. It stumbled under the attack, then detonated in a blinding flash. The third dreadnought was screaming, feet spread wide, and pounding a squad of traitors nearby, clearing thinking them the source of the insult.

Nim shook his head, barely able to believe his eyes, and started to laugh. The men of the squad did too, releasing Jonn, "Oh good work brother!" Their humour was cut short when fire began to hammer into their position, "Get the Eye out of here," Nim shouted, and they ducked down the stairs. Jonn went down when he was clipped by a lascannon, and heavy bolter shells were tearing the building apart. By the time they had made it down the stairs only Ricks and Will were still with them, and they were cursing as they headed across the rubble towards their fallback position.

Fortunately they were not pursued, and they scaled another ruined building. There were already a squad of Victrix Astartes snipers at the windows when the reached the top, and Nim saluted their sergeant, "Ave Imperator!" Ricks and Will went straight to a window, perching their rifle and the heavy bolter there.

"Ave Imperator, brother, keep your head down, our librarians have just reported a great disturbance in the warp, so expect something nasty."

"Many thanks. You hear that brothers?" Ricks and Will just nodded. Nim grunted, "Good, keep your eyes open."

Scanning the Great Bridge which lay just across the road from their vantage point , Nim could make out another squad of Victrix scouts moving through the rubble and obstacles. "Brave men, those," he said to the Victrix sergeant

"None braver."

Nim was ready to take issue with that, having just stared down a trio of dreadnoughts, when suddenly a gigantic winged daemon leapt onto the bridge, slavering and waving a sword and whip, "Emperor protect us," he whispered, "a Bloodthirster." It was on the scouts there in an instant. They hammered it with their shots and blows, but it seemed to shrug them off, and with a single sweep of its sword laid low three of the scouts. The scouts showed incredible cool, as they fell back to the edge of the bridge, and Nim had to nod his head in approval. The Bloodthirster followed, howling as he came, but the debris slowed the monster, who paused to fling a broken cargo hauler out of his way. Nim and the Victrix Astartae sergeant shouted, "Fire!" simultaneously and the two squads added their fire to that of the surviving scouts. The gigantic daemon shuddered under the impact of bolter shells and sniper rounds, then staggered. It looked around briefly, then made a mewling noise, then sagged to its knees, and finally collapsed.

The scouts on the bridge cheered and charged forward again before ducking out of sight through an access hatch.

Nim's perch shook as Brother Vitus clipped the building, the massive dreadnought smashing through the bricks like they weren't there.

Vitus was chanting loudly as he advanced, lascannons smashing into buildings and targets indiscriminately. Nim could hear the dreadnoughts words clearly,

Oh come, oh come, Imperator

And rescue my loyal brothers

That die in deadly trials here

Until the Imperator appears.

Rejoice, rejoice, Imperator

Shall come to thee my brothers!

Vitus was wrapped in a world of song and war, buildings trivial obstacles that didn't serve to keep him from the enemy. He strode forward, enemy fire bouncing off his armoured hide. He bulled into a building facing the square when an enemy dreadnought caught him full on with its plasma cannon. His vision greyed as the shot rocked him back. The dreadnought took careful aim, the stumbled back as it was caught by a rocket from somewhere to Vitus' rear. The dreadnought collapsed, spouting flames, and Vitus laughed, catching sight of a Landraider tearing forward, right into his sights. He chanted as he took careful aim,

Back on Terra there be a hall, That marks the point of the Emperor's fall. Now in that hall none can sin, Because it's gold outside and silver within.

Laser light flashed out into the side of the Landraider, tearing gaping holes in the armour. The massive machine lurched to a halt, marines pouring out of its front just shy of the bridge. Another rocket smashed into Vitus, and he found himself unable to free himself from the rubble to assault the men before him. Cursing, he lashed them with fire from his lascannons repeatedly, and a few stumbled and fell as they rushed up the bridge. More toppled as fire from the support squads behind him went home, and only a few reached cover at the top of the bridge.

His comm chimed and Prior Tertius cut into him short, "Brother Vitus, we are in need of your assistance."

Vitus continued to fire as he spoke, "I am afraid I am trapped here Father."

Prior Tertius cursed as he stumbled through the rubble with his bodyguard.

Their Razorback had gotten hung up on some debris, and they had barely had time to bail out before it was destroyed in a hail of enemy fire. They were rushing to regroup with the nearest troops, the last enemy dreadnought hot on their heels. They made the door of a building, but it was too late. An the dreadnought rounded the corner of the building, and with a single blast of its plasma cannon cut their numbers in half. The rest of the squad shook, but Tertius cried, "Hold fast brothers, there is nowhere to run now." He laid a hand gently on brother Kern's shoulder as the marine leveled his plasma rifle at the fast approaching dreadnought. "You are our only hope brother, may the Emperor guide your hand."

Kern said nothing, merely dropped to one knee and half exhaled, taking careful aim. The dreadnought was still aligning its cannon for another shot when two careful bursts from Kerns rifle struck it clean on the vision slit in the sarcophagus. The evil machine shuddered to a halt, arms sagging, then its inertia bore it forward to crash face down in the street.

Kern exhaled the rest of the way, then slowly drew a breath in, looking up to Lucius, "I felt his hand upon my shoulder."

Hector could see the dreadnought fall, and Tertius and his men rushing up the street towards the bridge. From his vantage point on a tower the oversaw the battlefield. Below him fire support squads were firing for all they were worth, lascannon beams and rockets bursting from the windows several floors down.

He knew Tertius would be too late, already the heretic forces had taken the footings on the far side of the bridge. He turned to Keel, who waited expectantly. "Now we must go, or it will be too late." Hector gave into the demands of the fresh blood boiling in his mind, and triggered his jump pack, and he could hear the roar of his bodyguard's packs joining his own.

In one hop they were in the street below, then another took them to the top of the bridge. They flew over a squad of his terminators, bright goliaths who were guarding one of the Victrix Astartae librarians just in time to stem the assault of a squad of Chaos terminators that poured up over the lip of the bridge. He tore into them with a fury, shrieking as his claws slashed back and forth, knocking them down as their arcs of lighting tore through their massive armour plates.

His men were striking furiously, but their chainswords made little impact on the massive armour plate, and howling with a rage that matched the marks of Khorne upon them they drove their attack home. Keel rushed forward, shoving Hector back out of the fray just in time to prevent a chainfist from burying itself in Hector's midriff. His power fist crushed the helm of the terminator, and the skull beneath, but another terminator struck home with his chainfist, smashing Keel to the ground.

With a shriek of rage Hector leapt into the fray again, claws slashing left and right, cutting down terminator after terminator. A some point he found himself alone, standing among scattered the scattered forms of his men and the enemy. The fire in his blood subsided to see his comrades down, some wounded, others clearly dead. Reports from the other squads buzzed in his ears, but he only half heard them. He gasped for breath and stumbled forward, exhausted, to find Keel.

"Keel, report!" There was no report, and he shouted louder, "Keel, where in the Eye are you."

Then he heard a faint voice through the pounding in his ears, "Here sir…"

Hector stumbled over to his second, and knelt down. The chainfist had cut deep into Keel's side, through his armour and into his lungs. Hector's hand slipped on the bright red blood that was almost invisible against the bright red armour, and he could feel tears building in his eyes, "Hold tight Keel, you'll be all right. Pearce, get over here now!" He looked around, trying to find Pearce, then saw him lying prone, decapitated.

Keel coughed and blood bubbled and flowed from his mouth. "Its too late for me Captain," he said through the blood, "The Emperor has called me."

Hector shook his head, "No!" and the tears fell freely, splashing against the eagle on Keel's chest, and he knew there was only one thing he could do, "I will never forget you, my brother." He placed his lips on Keel's in a gentle kiss, tasting the salt of Keel's blood, then took him in his arms, squeezing tight, and blood flowed freely Keel's mouth into his.

Hector could taste more than salt now, tasting Keel's concern as the terminator had rushed Hector, and joy as he had stepped in the way, sacrificing himself to save his Captain. Then older memories, their parents, his first kiss, leaving the farm to be tested at the Chapterhouse, induction, their initiation, and a lifetime of battles seen from his brother's eyes. Keel fell limp at the last, and his head fell onto Hector's shoulder.

Hector smoothed Keel's hair, rocking him gently, and wept freely, only looking up when he heard a voice say, "Captain." The Victrix Astartae's librarian stood there, his power armour nearly pristine. Hector gently laid Keel down, and stood, his armour so covered in blood and gore that not a hint of white or yellow, hair or flesh was to be seen. The librarian looked slightly shocked at the Hector's hellish visage, then gathered himself before speaking again, "We have secured the below areas with the assistance of your men. I see you have everything…" The librarian looked around once more, clearly shocked at the carnage, "under control here."

Hector stood mute for a moment, then said "For now."


Korvus 17:56, 9 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran