Chapter 17. Plague Stars: Frostbite
The convoy of Imperials and Quarians began their slow march into the unknown, traversing through the broken ice and collapsed buildings, ahead of them the white armored marines blended into their surroundings of ice and desolation of the arctic world, their eyes ever gazing into the horizon, expecting the enemy at every turn.
Their advance was slow, too slow, the ground was slippery, and weak, for nobody knew what was ice leading into some deep chasm and what was solid ground. This planet has been coated in permafrost for 60 000 years, what the snow hides is not known, and the convoy was not eager to find out.
Winds were harsh, through the broken ruins it blew hard, carrying with it particles of ice and small debree, making visibility as low as it could get, the guard used lights placed on their backs to signal their comrades behind where they were. With each step the snow and ice crackled, guardsmen cowered their faces as the wind blew harshly and lowered the temperatures to -50, many were veterans of the campaigns where they fought in the similar climates, some were drafted from the cold imperial worlds of the original universe, they were adapt to it, so they huddled their heads into their coatings and pressed onwards, only wind singing of their passage.
Agrippa pushed with his skitarii, his bionic goggles trying to pierce the ever present wind and frost mist, their rather large force meant they slower than they should have. He pondered the ruins. No weapon markings, no fire, no destruction, the buildings were coated in ice almost instantly; he wondered what could cause such destruction.
They passed a large avenue, vehicles frozen to the ground, windows broken from sheer cold and inside the remains of these unlucky aliens, they were in horrible shape, frost preserved them, but the wind ate away at their remains. From what little remained of them, they could not tell what kind of alien race these were before their planet suffered such apocalyptic event.
A littler further away they discovered a horrible sight, hundreds of aliens huddled around a 6 meter tall spiral structure with 3 meters in width, all were frozen and attached to it with ice, as if they huddled around it seeking salvation.
"What is this tower? "one of the guardsmen said, barely lifting his head from freezing cold and staring at the metal tower.
Agrippa slowly approached, circling it once and looking it up and down.
"I am not sure…if I had to guess, a heat generator. Or, it produced power by burning fuel. "he pointed at the empty innards of the structure. "it is empty. I would assume, they ran out of fuel."
"But….they froze here, why stay near it if its not fueled?"Skitarii Squad Leader Felix spoke while kneeling and looking at what appears to be barely recognizable remnants of an alien hugging a smaller alien, they appeared bipedal.
"Fear…desperation, hope? All of these… They sought salvation at its embrace, even when it went dry, they never stopped hoping, or they desperately hugged its lingering warmth hoping it will be enough to prolong their lives just for few minutes more." Agrippa theorized as he touched the frost bitten steel of the construct, on its surface many words of unknown alphabet were written from remaining coal shards, he knelt and almost sadly looked at the small xeno, its head glued to the reactor, and its face cowered with its small 3 fingered hands. He stood up , giving the generator one more look before ordering.
"Let us advance, sun is setting fast on this world, we must seek new shelter for the night."
At his words the mechanicus convoy continued its march. Finding a rather tall square building not long later, just as the sun was beginning to set down the highest mountains. The buildings itself was highly decorated, its outsides were filled with high tech columns and mosaics made from steel and other alloys, most faded away from the elements, but the building stood firm.
"Scouts, do a perimeter sweep, Squad leader Felix, take our finest man and proceed inside, I want the building safe for lodgings. We will share it tonight with Quarians."
The guardsmen grumbled silently, but when they felt the gaze of Agrippa upon them, they went silent. He knew what they thought, and decided to address it.
"Comrades, I realize your concerns, you would not share quarters with xenos, and rightly so, but do consider this, we are several kilometers away from our HQ, the sun is nearly down "he pointed at the paler light getting engulfed by black clouds" and we are in potential hostile territory. Splitting our forces would make us easier target for our enemies, should they attack they would laugh at our poor tactical choice to split up for the night, and I would not have Mechanicus of Guard ridiculed by our enemies on this world. For to mock our noble organizations, is to mock Emperor himself. And that I will never allow. "he paused for a moment, the guard seemed won over, reminded of their duty and why they fight, their anger at sharing the building with quarians dissipated as rapidly as the heat in this dreaded cold.
"Still, if you have concerns at common lodgings, speak. So our scouts will have time enough to find another building for those who share our suffering and common goal."
He stopped, expecting and waiting someone to speak up.
Nobody did, they all hanged their heads low, humbled by the words from this priest and his words. He waited for a few seconds, they remained silent, the only voice was that of the wind increasing its tempo as it slapped them on their faces and bodies, their mantels and heated uniforms growing whiter by the moment. Agrippa took the moment and spoke once more.
"Let us prepare for the cold night brothers, it is not good to idle in this cold, come now. The buildings first floor is clear, our comrade reported it so, get inside and deploy the heating units. "
He said as he saw one of the skitarii standing away and near the dark entrance to the building, waving his hand signaling the first floor is clear.
Agrippa approached him.
"What is the situation soldier?"
"My lord, Commander Felix says the first floor is clear, but he and his unit are marching to the upper floors he wants to make sure, for now there is no sign of anyone visiting this building in a long time."
"Good. Let us proceed inside, I will survey our surroundings."
"As you wish lord."
Agrippa stepped in, he removed his goggles and his eyes took a moment to adapt to the darkness broken only by the lights coming from huge windows whom miraculously still had their glass panes, this building must have been of great importance for they obviously invested higher quality materials in its construction.
As his eyes adapted to the darkness, he could see the bipedal statues of the alien race which held dominion over this world, he was surprised how similar their statues were to the ones built by the imperium, exalting aesthetics and pleasant musculature of their own race. On the walls were mozaics built from coloured stones and noble metals such as gold, an entire large portion of the wall dozen meters high was coated in symbolism and paintings. He approached one of the decorated walls as his men poured inside the building, establishing gun nests looking out through the huge entrance which no longer held its door.
He looked at the mozaics deeply, seeing the bipedals rising into conscience, developing fire, cutting down exotic woods in forested lands, rivers and seas, building and expanding.
Next picture was that of the alien race symbolicly representing 5 of their members pointing with their hands at the sky and the stars.
Another showed them meeting other races, ships in transit, and inevitable warfare with other galactic powers.
Then the mozaics turn gloom and dark, and rather amateurish in their design as if they began to lack artists.
They show the destruction of various galactic fleets, dark shapes descending onto planets and taking people. Then these same people return and attack their own kin.
The quality of the art took a serious downgrade by the following next pictures as they shown the fleets of this alien empire destroyed by literal painted daemons, gaping mouths devouring metal ships, and the praying of the people for salvation that never came.
The next picture shows the leader taking control ,or so it would seem, people now show worshiping one of their own which holds the star in his hand, next picture he uses it to create something, and people rejoice. He tried to understand what the creation was, but it was formless and shapeless, a blob of sorts, he didn't understood what he saw.
Following picture shows the leader deified or something, far more decorated than in previous picture, he points at the sun of this system. Then…nothing.
Nothing? Agrippa thought. He looked, searching for the next picture, and then…nothing. The mozaics fell to the ground ,broken in pieces and what still stands is eroded. It would be safe to assume that by the end of their race, the quality of materials used to paint or construct was so low it never managed to stand the test of time. What few bits and pieces remain show the dead and the dying, frost taking over and them stuck on this world. The last one shows the dead leader and the blob creation looming over the people who lost their leader. Anything after, or before is ruined. He rummaged thrugh the remains , not noticing his men settling down and turning on heat generators, some of them even worryingly gazing at him as he tried to find remaining pieces of mosaic in the ruined pile, his desire to know what happened consuming him.
He tried to make sense of it all, but failed, he stood and watched at the mozaics , but was shaken out of the trance by Felix.
"My lord all floors are clear. My…lord? "
He turned around, surprised.
"All…All the floors are clear lord, there is nothing here. Statues and various art, if I didn't know, id say we were in a temple or museum of sorts."
"You aren't wrong, this building is both. But do not speak loud of it, lest you trouble the men."
"Yes lord. "he responded and looked at the mozaics
"All the faces are gone."
"What?"Agrippa asked him.
"Apologies, I was noticing…all the faces are gone, wind must have eroded them."
Agrippa looked and now only noticed this, the faces in all mozaics are faded or eroded.
"You are right…"
"Must have been the wind lord. It must be a coincidence that the faces were hit. "
"Yes, but...only the faces? "
They were both alerted by the sound near the door. One guardsmen shouted at the quarian.
"Why don't you watch where you are going tin head? Look at what you have done!" he stood up and said to the quarian while he pointed at the spilled coffee.
"I am sorry human, it was an accident." He said with an indifferent tone, not quite sincerely.
They both approached.
"What is the meaning of this ruckus? " one wild eyed commissar approached.
"Sir, this Quarian stepped and spilled our coffee on the ground as we unpacked."
"Again, I am sorry, I haven't noticed…"
"Bullshit, you have done it on purpose!"
Several other guardsmen stood up and began approaching, as did quarians from the other side, seeing this can turn bad, one of the commisar took control.
"Enough! I will hear no more of this. You. Guardsmen, fill your cup again and do not trouble us all with your trivialities, have I made myself clear!"
"I apologize." Quarian added and began moving to the side of the building with his people, watched on by the guardsmen and the commissar.
Commissar came closer to the face of this guardsman.
"One more breach of discipline, and you will walk barefoot for the duration of the mission. Understood soldier?"
"Yes sir."he said coldly.
"We are in enough shit for you to add more to the pile by antagonizing those who will sleep next to us. You get me?"
"I get you sir."
"Good. Dismissed. "
Agrippa saw the tensions are high, he could only hope the mission ends soon to avoid more conflicts.
Guardsmen sat down and began preparing more coffee, while the quarians sat silently in their corner, only removing their masks to eat and drink quickly, before reattaching them again.
The night was silent, only the hum of the heat generators broke the silence and the howling wind of the storm outside.
Outside only the marines were vigilant, taking shelter in many surrounding buildings, carefully watching over the convoy, temperature was reaching -70 outside and they stood watch, unfeeling and uncaring of the elements, the eternal protectors, the Sons of the Emperor. Our guardians.
Dawn rises once more on Shapuria, it is a cold dawn, the frost sealed the entrance to the building, packing snow tightly on the barricades and the encampments, two soldiers died tonight, foolishly giving into winter temptation and falling briefly asleep while away from the generator. They were met standing frozen in place and observing the outsides of the building, there will be no burial for those failing in the line of duty.
Once more the convoy assembles and marches onwards to their fate. After several hours of marching they notice a bridge, it it leads over the frozen ravine which once held a big river, separating the mega city in two which had buildings on both sides. now both the river and bridge are frozen.
The construction still held in place, albeit damaged and worn from the passage of time. Debate was held, they would have to cross it, slowly, carefully, a single mistake would mean the end of the expedition. To circumvent the bridge and go around would cost them more than 2 days through unknown and frozen land.
Weighing their risks, they took the bridge.
First over it were 20 marines, testing the durability of the bridge and were good scouts, they passed without problem, followed soon by the forces of the Quarians and Imperial guard combined, each passing by percentage, no army willing to pass wholly and leave other stranded.
They passed slowly and some 50% crossed after a while, both IG and the Quarian Frost Elite. But then the winds picked up the speed and temperature was dropping rapidly.
"Lord Agrippa, the temperature scanner shows -50 and falling down drastically, the wind is carrying particles from what was ocean at one point, it will plummet the temperature to -100 in the next 6 hours, we are not equipped to deal with such strong frost." Squad Leader Felix said to Agrippa as the wind harshly slapped his hunched form.
Agrippa observed the shaky bridge and the approaching silver clouds, he could not wait a moment, it was all or nothing.
"Order the men to cross the bridge, and pray to the Emperor it holds. Hurry!"
The men of the imperial guard and Quarians began passing in vast quantities as the bridge was strained to its maximum capacity.
"Hurry up you dogs, you want to die on this desolate rock!" one lieutenant inspired his men to pick up the pace.
Soldiers were moving at a fast pace, good 70% were now through the bridge, both quarians and IG, some 30% mechanicus passed as well carrying valuable equipment needed for the soldiers. Majority of the marines were still standing on the other side with Agrippa and his remnants.
On the bridge storm was picking up speed.
"How can it be this cold, this is madness! "one of the Imperial Guard soldiers spoke to his buddy as they both rushed across the vast bridge.
"Not since Pygmea have I felt the frost this strong and…"
"What? You were saying? "
"By the Emperor…."
"What is it Tomius, what did you…."
He turned the gaze to where his friend was looking and saw what was essentially a giant silver cloud approaching rapidly. It was speeding at high velocity at them.
"By the Golden throne! Run!" the soldiers on the bridge began to run across it as those not on it went back. Quarians seeing the incoming cloud also picked up the pace, their uniforms could tolerate of up to -80, even with their impressive weather suits -100 would strain that threshold to its limits and would eventually break.
Agrippa and his men took shelter in the buildings and next to them ,trying to hide from the incoming wind. So did the men on the other side who already passed.
Then not a minute later the storm impacted the bridge harshly, some soldiers were blown from it, falling into the deep chasm bellow screaming all the way into the depths of this 2km deep crevice.
Those who did not took shelter behind the broken vehicles saw their colleagues being torn to shreds ,as the wind carried ice and small dust like particles rending the suits and flesh.
Guardsmen froze to death instantly as the wind particles tore holes into their uniforms, letting in deadly wind and frost inside.
Some quarians felt their tightly sealed suits being torn open by the particles, they screamed loudly even as the cold froze their lungs and suffocated them.
Those unlucky whom were pushed by the wind tightly held onto the railings so as not to fall, screaming for help from their covering comrades even as the cold wind melded their flesh to the metal. One unlucky quarian held and yelled for help, only a single guardsmen nearby as he hid behind the broken vehicle, eyes wide open with terror, the Quarian begged the human to save him.
"Imperati, help me Imperati!" "Imperati was the formal naming of the humans from the Imperium of Man by the Quarian citizens, due to constant shouting of their soldiers in which the quarians joked that every second word was either Imperium of Imperator.
The frostbitten soldier looked upon the hanging quarian being shielded by a wreckage, he thought for a moment what to do, the wind froze his comrades around him and pushed many of them from the railing, but from his position the vehicle behind him shielded both him and the quarian unlucky to be hanging from the rail.
This man fought in one of the campaigns back in the old Imperium, he saw Eldar, and he remembered how one of them saved his life from those who betrayed the emperor and worshiped the daemon gods, one lucky bullet by the Eldar rifle, and his life was saved.
He felt obliged to return the favour. His blood boiled and his instincts kicked into the overdrive, strong legs propelled him forward even as the wind howled loudly, the xeno was mere 10 meters away, but in his situation it is as same as being 10 kilometers away.
Moving as close to the ground as possible he approached, the Quarian held tighter than ever as it saw him approach, fingers slipping from exertion and wind shaking the bridge
"Imperati…" it whispered still unbelieving that a human is coming to its rescue.
Moments later the soldier came close to the railing and tightly grasped the quarian by the wrist, he was shocked as he expected it to be heavier than he looked, and began pulling it up, quarian's legs finally finding solid footing.
The bridge was giving way, old plasteel and titanium wiring finally giving way to the overwhelming frost and substantial weight of the men on it. One of the wiring near them cracked violently and threatened to detach and spill them all on the side.
"Come on damn you, climb faster!" the Guardsmen spoke through clenched teeth even as the cold was barely mitigated by the debris around him.
Moments later the Quarian climbed over the railing and collapsed onto the ground, mildly shaking from fear and frost. He noticed now that it was a female quarian by the shape of its body. The Quarian gazed at him, even though her mask he can saw that her eyes were locked onto his, open wide, filled with fear.
"No time to rest! Up!" the soldier shouted against the howling of the wind and grasped the Quarian underneath his arm and began to propel her forwards with him, they were close to the end of the bridge and could begin to hear his comrades shouting from the other side, encouraging them to hurry up and get over here, the other side of the bridge where Agrippa stood was not visible from his side.
They pushed through debris, humans and quarians dying around them or doing the same, trying to reach the safety as the bridge violently shook with the pushing of the wind.
They came to where the damaged vehicles end.
It was 20 meters long sprint to the safety, and no vehicles to cover them from the deadly frost. He breathed violently as he thought what to do, one of his comrades tried to make a run for it, making scant 10 meters before his legs melded with the frozen metal, he could only impotently shout and scream as the frost began to freeze him from the legs up, a horrifying sight, the bridge was 100 meters wide and many soldiers tried to escape.
One grouping of imperial guardsmen took the wreckage of a 5 meter long vehicle, and began to push it towards the other side, trying to shield themselves from direct wind, metal screeching and dissolving in the frost as they have done so, one slipping on the ice and falling from the cover of the vehicle, only for his now revealed face to snap freeze, much to the horror of his comrades whom could only see him struggling and holding his face even as his hands froze as well.
The soldier could only look as he had no ways of passing safely. Then the quarian spoke.
"Imperati…I can create a shield, it won't last long, it will protect us somewhat, stay next to me and trust me." He looked at her with his blue eyes, her own almost pleading through the mask as they struggled to survive.
He grasped the quarian again as she used her omni tool to erect a blue glowing shield, which instantly came under stress from the wind, they jumped from their cover and began running together towards the shouting mixture of humans and quarians, the shield reaching critical in moments.
So close they were, he thought as time seemed to slow down, scant moments later the shield collapsed and they were under direct push of the wind, with his last strength he grasped the quarian and pushed her violently into the cover, he himself still 5 meters away, he tried to run but felt his air gone, so cold it was that he could not inhale, he tried to move but he felt his rubber soles sticking to the ice, he knew this was it.
But from the strong wind and ice, a huge figure appeared in front of him and as if nothing picking him up, his rubber soles detaching from his boots and throwing him into the crowd of people hiding in between the buildings, he flew for a second and fell into the snow amongst his guard, whom swiftly used overcharged lasguns that elicited warmth and placed two of them at his chest while he was already suffering from hypothermia.
Seconds later they dragged him near the running generator which the engineers began to turn on zealously to provide necessary warmth for soldiers to survive.
He shook as he tried to gather his wits, inhaling the air viciously as his lungs once more could draw breath near the generator. His organs suffering immense shock from the wind and frost, his survival was now in question.
the tall figure was again in front of him, one of the Marines broke cover and rescued him, their armour far superior to anything, this frost did not impede them at all.
Then the female quarian rushed next to him and turned on her omni tool.
"What are you doing!"one of his colleges said as he pointed a las pistol towards her, causing a slight tension in the nearby humans and quarians whom grasped their weapons.
"It is omni gel, it will help him survive!" she shouted
"back off from him! do not touch him! "he continued to yell back at her, both factions at a standoff.
"Iustius…"the lying soldier said, Iustius still glaring at the Quarian ,weapon held high.
It took several moments for Iustius to lower his weapon. " I hope you know what you are doing…"he said to the prone soldier.
She quickly began to apply medigel to the glares of both quarians and humans, and to the surprise of all, the Guardsmen Frigus became stable again.
She laughed lightly as she saw that her application worked. "Imperati…you will live."
He gazed at the masked xeno and silently said "thank you…"
Then the moment ended as one of the soldiers yelled. "The bridge! Look! "
Then the second wind wave impacted, this one crushing the already weakened foundations which were already strained to the max by all the men on it.
"The bridge…..it's giving in! Screw the wind, rush to the other side." One of the guardsmen shouted.
Almost all men began sprinting to the ends of the bridge, Quarian and Human alike running for their very lives.
Under the strain of wind and men, the bridge, after standing for better part of 60000 years finally began collapsing, carrying with it into the abyss all the lost souls still stuck on it. Screaming and shouting as they were falling into the deep darkness of the long canyon. Bare few reaching the end and escaping before being dragged down or killed by the wind.
From the other side men chanted "Emperor protects "constantly as they could only look in horror as their comrades died from the fall.
An hour later the wind died down and temperature normalized at -60, survivors from both sides approached the destroyed bridged and looked with despair down into the canyon ,hoping to find some survivors, but only thing they saw was ice and mist, and over encompassing darkness which covered the very bottom of the canyon.
They were now separated, majority of the IG and Quarians passed through the bridge with 1/3 of the mechanicus, in total some 5% fell with the bridge, men, xeno, all died to the elements.
Agrippa hailed the teams on the other side.
"Brothers, the mission stays the same, we must not lose heart, proceed into our next rendezvous and fortify the position, expect our arrival."
"Affirmative lord Agrippa, we will do as you say. "one of the mechanicus skitarii said.
Then the sad remains of both groups went on their way, those past the bridge went into the magna tundra, having to circle and enter the rendezvous through another side, this one being frozen solidly by the storms in the last few days.
Agrippa's group decided to take the alternate route, hoping to follow the canyon and find another crossing.
As the wind sang its sad song, both groups marched on their way. Followed not by the Sun which covered its face through the thick dark clouds, but by the grizzly and unforgiving winter seeking to take the lives of those who walk its domain.
Followed by the grim thoughts of their comrades on the other side, Agrippa and his comrades advanced forward, following the canyon and hoping for a new crossing.
Passing by many ruined buildings, vehicles and unfinished heat generators they have left the demolished bridge behind, the canyon was wider as they went, and some considered getting back to the bridge and heading in the opposite direction, but soon enough they have saw potential crossing.
Approaching it they contemplated what to do. Their crossing was by its appearance a subterranean highway system, with vehicles abandoned outside and inside the tunnel, it was dark inside, night wakes many terrors in the primordial conscience of man, and this one ,on the planet so alien, woke horrors long forgotten.
"I don't like the looks of that place…" one of the guardsmen spoke. " I was born on a hive world filled with such tunnels, in a world like this, this tunnel could only go deeper and deeper into the ground to avoid causing tectonic catastrophe from many vehicles passing through it. This is bad.."
"But it is our only way to the other side"Agrippa added.
"My lord, I did not mean…"Guardsmen quickly apologized
"Be calm, I understand your fear, but we must overcome it." He waved the guard, calming him down. " Bring the servo skulls, they will scout ahead of us. We march now…"
Agrippa took the first steps ahead and down the opening of the tunnel, followed by his loyal skitarii, and soon enough by the rest of the column.
Inside of the tunnel was expectedly dark, but dry, no snow beyond the opening of it, at the entrance was bunch of debris thrown quickly as to block the wind coming from the opening of the tunnel.
One of the skitarii looked at his portable radar, watching it chart the course through the tunnel as Servo skulls passed through the corridors.
"Trouble my lord. " he said after he saw one of the servos disappear from the map.
"What is it? "Agrippa asked him.
"Servo skulls are descending down more and more, as they stray away from us and deeper into the ground, their signal is being lost due to depth"
"Curious…this tunnel goes deeper than I thought, what about the servo we sent to find us an exit?"
"It is still advancing, there are many obstacles in its way. "
"Let us hurry then, I would not idle needlessly in this place."
The column marched steadily, slowed only by the remains of the xenos forms still stuck on their vehicles, they passed few unfinished generators which would provide heat. Agrippa pondered all this, the cold must not have been so instantaneous, for they tried to warm up , he made calculations, the crops must have failed, followed by the civilization on this planet, soon enough those that remained sought to warm themselves with any possible means. Books, wood, everything was burnt that could be found…but it was still not enough.
After a while of uneventful walking they have reached the end of the tunnel. It was sealed. Centuries upon centuries , the resulting cold has ruined the supports and the tunnel collapsed.
"Shit…" Felix said. "Cant we blast through, or move debris out of the way."
"Do that Felix, and you risk causing chain reaction bringing the entire tunnel on top of us…."he looked at the rusted metal and stone through which he could hear the cold wind whistling.
"We go around. Did the servo skulls show any other alternative way? " he spoke to the radar skitarii.
"Yes my lord, one of the maintenance tunnels goes around and near the primary exit. Though this will cost us the day, and we would reach the end only when night is upon us."
"Beats trailing back and hoping to find another crossing. "Felix added.
"indeed. "Agrippa agreed. "let us march onwards, we have no other choice."
Their spirits constantly assailed, the ever stalwart companions followed without question.
Soon enough they reached the dark and moist corridor leading deeper into the tunnels.
They began their descent into the bowels of earth, stairs built from dura steel still held firm, untainted by the frost, but the moisture caused them to be slippery and one of the guards nearly fell into the darkness bellow, caught by the commissar before he was out of reach. His comrades pulled him up, he was out of himself from fear, and shaking when he came face to face with the commissar. The stern face of the discipline officer gazed into his eyes, taping him lightly on the shoulder.
"Watch your footing son, the Emperor has need of you yet." He went on his way as he said that. His friends nudged the frightened soldier as if to imply he got lucky, they went deeper and were surprised to see excavated walls and cavernous spaces, filled with crates with long rotten supplies.
Collections of artwork, statues, technology rusted and beyond broken, all was strewn across the long corridors and hallways, side rooms filled with religious iconography devoured by mold and dust, weapon armory, almost empty with remaining weapons so destroyed by the passage of time they turned to dust when mechanicus priests tried to pick them up, some tablets remained in one of the room, placed where force field once stood, Agrippa took them and with his Prothean cypher integrated them into his circuitry, reading them faster than normal human can with his binaric machine spirit. Concerned by what he read, they carried onwards without hindrance, witnessing many ruined relics of a dead race, now serving as tombstone for those who tried to save them.
They saw another opening deviating from their road, and to their surprise it was massive. In it various buildings now laid in ruins and in the center of it was a huge towering generator, whose opening would went smoke to the surface.
"What is this…" Felix saw as they entered the huge cavernous opening filled with many xenos relics and constructions which now laid abandoned in darkness.
"This is what became of the last of this race. Their struggle to keep warm, to survive, and endure. It ended here, with these makeshift buildings. I imagine the food ran out and they starved, or they lacked things to burn and were claimed by the cold. Let us leave the cursed to their fate, do not disturb the remains." Agrippa said as he stood with his friends at the opening to this giant underground city.
"Do you think there are more of these cities across the globe? "one of his junior adept priests said, curiosity was always the strong point of mechanicus.
"If they do exist, I am sure they share the same fate. In our journey here, we saw no wood anywhere, the planet is coated in permafrost, eventually they ran out of things to burn. Perhaps some still remain deeper into the crust of the world, but I am not to eager to disturb them if there are cities still. Let us leave them to their own devices. "
"Lord Agrippa, look." One of the junior adepts pointed at the huge painting on one side of the wall.
"By the Omnissiah…" one of the grouped adepts said.
"It seems cold is not the only enemy of these people, this confirms my suspicions. "Agrippa spoke.
"The people of this world were desperate, in the dying decades of this race they have made something born out of madness, it was both a slave and food."
"But…how can it be both?" Felix asked.
"the scientists concluded the world will ran out of food soon after the world cools down, and they knew their race cannot endure the cold, so they created something organic, born from the cloning vats that could work through the deadly frost and still serve as food. It was the ultimate slave."
"How do you know this my Lord, and what happened to them ? " Felix was still dumbstruck by what his lord knew
"I analyzed tablets and data storages that still remained, the drawings in the building we slept in, and here, this last picture cements it all. The final nail in the coffin came from the same race that sought to survive at any cost. They have made their own destructor. "
"Made what my lord..."
Agrippa activated his own portable light, maximizing its glow, shining bright light on the wall the picture was made visible to all, it was the painting of a huge bloated mass of tentacles and open mouths, in the picture it was devouring the members of an avian race much akin to turians which lived during the times of protheans. The painted aliens fought against it, or tried to at least. It was painted in such a way as if to warn and frighten everyone, or worst yet, as a warning to all…
"Shayogan" Agrippa said coldly and loudly.
Murmurs from the assembled groupings of soldiers could be heard.
"Madness, what gripped these abominations to do that." One of the adepts could hardly contain his disgust.
"Madness indeed brother, in their darkest hour they were thinking only of what they can build to survive, but not should they do it. Their slaves turned against them, I dare not consider they still exist after so many years."he gazed upon the dark walls and ruined buildings.
"We must leave, quickly."Agrippa spoke to all.
"Contact." One of the marines broke the tension.
"Form a firing perimeter" another of his brothers said and they pointed their guns at the buildings.
"What are they even…." Another guardsmen responded as he gazed upon the city where the shadows danced.
And then from the holes in the walls, from the ceiling and the floor and even from the ruined buildings and hiding places, the primordial horrors began crawling out.
"We must leave! NOW!" One of the adepts yelled, his composure shattered.
"I don't think that thing will let us" Felix pointed to the 6 meter tall blob being which began extending tentacles, it was huge and bloated, shapeless, it resembled nothing a sane mind could produce, its body was see through, it was tall and from its flesh it formed long tentacles with mouths on the end filled with viscous teeth, even from afar it focused its tentacles at the humans and quarians, it could finally satiate its endless hunger and it seemed all too eager to do it, dragging itself slowly at its food.
"and that thing…and that… "Felix began to speak as more and more creatures appeared. In the split second from when he spoke there was roar of fire and marines opened their weapons against the monstrous creatures, their transhuman instincts screaming to fight back against the encroaching beings.
But the flesh of the creatures was like gelatin, their explosive rounds could not stop them, blowing a hole only to be filled with the massed gelatinous flesh seconds later.
Another marine approached with his Plasma weapon and shot at the being , hot searing energy impacted upon the formless enemy and began melting it.
"Yyyiiiiiiiiiiiiirghhh" the monstrous creature screamed as plasma melted it into nothing.
"Utilize fire weapons, proxima 1 to 3, engage and cover the retreat" marine spoke to his brother, and then those who carried plasma weapons and flames began pouring onto the constant incoming mass of flesh trying to stem the tide.
"How can there be this many! Wouldn't they starve! " one of the retreating soldiers said.
"not if they slept during the millennia you dumbass, don't think about it ,run!" his friend slapped him onto the helmet urging him to run.
"Felix, lead our men to the exit, we must not let them chase us into the open plain during the night or we will all freeze to death. Establish the fire perimeter as soon as you reach the exit, we are counting on you."
"We? You must escape my lord, let me stay"
"No! I must see personally that they are sealed here. Go now! No time to argue" he shouted at his subordinate whom idled a second or two and then began to urge his men to fall back, following the radar skitarii and the map."
Agrippa turned towards the mass of flesh approaching and the Marines still firing a concentrated fire onto it.
"Lord Agrippa!" Felix yelled and Agrippa turned around.
"Take this!"Felix shouted and threw one of the flamers he took from a guard. "Good luck my lord!"
Agrippa smiled at the directness of his officer and attached the flamer to his arm.
"This tunnel is barely holding, the moisture here and the frost above will be its end, we must place our explosive devices at these support columns. "he pointed at two massive stone columns built to sustain this cavernous space , one was at the entrance to the cave, and another was damningly deeper into it some 50 to 100 meters into the city.
With their superhuman thinking one of the marines grabbed enough explosives to level a hive block and taking his plasma pistol and chainsword began his wild sprint towards the city pillar.
"Brother Amigus will see to it that our enemy remains buried, let's make his sacrifice count. Brothers fall back to the rally point. "
Some guardsmen remained and tried to fire their lasguns into the beings to no avail as the wounds sealed fast, and one of the creatures approached too close, using its tentacles it began devouring and sucking those poor souls it came across,
It grasped one of the soldier and began pulling him, his comrades grasping him and pulling back.
"Cut the tentacle! Cut it Emperor damn it!"he screamed as he was dragged
"Aye! "one grasped his combat knife and began hitting the tentacle to no avail, each hit caused the opening that soon filled up and healed
"Its not working!" sweat was streaming from his brow as he hit the body of the monster again and again.
He was suddenly pushed back by a violent force, and one of the marines used his power sword, cutting the blobby mass, the creature recoiled, energies of the sword burnt it, not giving it time to consolidate the marine approached and began slashing at the violent being as the soldiers dragged the traumatized soldier into their ranks.
"For the Emperor!" he shouted as he pushed his krak granades into its mass of flesh and violently jerked his hand back to release it from the grasp of the tentacles.
He jumped behind nearby ruined building and the monster exploded from within.
But not matter how much they fought and burnt the creatures they kept coming, abominable products of science were enigma to them, for the foolish race that made them allowed them to reproduce like Amoeba with mitosis, their caloric intake was so abysmally low that they could not reproduce madly and could hibernate for millennia waiting for times to get better, products of a demented mind, it takes one good look at the spawns to know that those survivors of the avian xenos race that made them were soon devoured by their slaves, the cold wasn't the biggest enemy in the dying days of their history, it was madness given flesh.
Many soldiers fighting were devoured into its body which was like glass and see through, to the horror of all they could see their comrades dissolving rapidly inside them, trashing around before dying from immense pain.
"Atticus…"the creature spoke, almost like a guttural whisper, impersonating the voice of the guardsman it swallowed. .
"What the frak! How did it know my name" he said and lowered the gun.
"Atticus….Frieeeeeeeeendddd."it shouted loudly and grabbed him by the leg. The monsters seemingly devoured a piece of memory from their victims, enough to trick someone to make it weaken their guard and devour them.
He began to be pulled into the creature, he activated his inferno grenades and the second he was swallowed the granades activated and burnt the monstrous being from within.
Agrippa used the combination of his Melta and Flame thrower to great success, these creatures fear the greatest friend of mankind, Fire. Their flesh was scorched and their ranks thinned, but some creatures upon devouring soldiers began to divide, to create more of their kind, it was a losing battle.
The sole marine carrying explosives pushed hard against the creatures seeking to reach the main pillar.
One creature tried to grasp his leg, a single plasma shot in such proximity melted the creature before it can tighten the grip, one jumped from the ceiling on top of him seeking to crush him under its weight, he simply swung his sword vertically and divided it in 2, both sides shuddered and died from shock.
Passing fast near the buildings and ruins, his quick mind saw a giant 6 meter pile of bones and ancient viscera, the remnants of the inhabitants of this underground city, they were all devoured millennia ago by the creatures, their bones spat out and piled on top, almost symbolically to represent the blob creatures.
Quickly glancing back he saw the soldiers were safe distance from the explosion to happen, and then he looked up and saw that through the openings, so many creatures kept pouring in, he saw them crawling through extremely small places, their bodies adapting like gelatin and passing through small vents and holes before taking their normal shape.
He thought to himself, that even if he could collapse all of this, and if there remains a small hole, the creatures will keep following them endlessly. In a millisecond, gazing at his surroundings, he knew what he must do.
He reached the pillar and attached one of the 4 explosives he had, it would be more than enough to collapse it , but not stopping a moment to think, he knew what he must do to seal the deal.
The first pillar in the opening of the city was rigged to marines command, he would activate it when he placed the one at the city pillar, but he sprinted away from the column, deeper into the city, towards the gigantic metal construct ,the heat producing generator which was the beating heart of this colony.
Agrippa saw the marine running deeper into the city, and understood what he is trying to do, as did marines comrades.
"Brother Chaplain, I request permission to stand and guard our retreat." One of the marines spoke to his captain
"Denied, we are all retreating from here."
"Brother Ignatius is my blood brother, I gave an oath that where he goes I will follow, in the Emperors name. I ought to follow my oath."
Chaplain took a moment to think, his oath to the Emperor is paramount to everything else, he made his decision, and is now in the Emperors hands.
"Permission Granted, die well in the Emperors name." his Chaplain said and their hands met in a shake to shatter the worlds.
"Marines, fall back!" Chaplain ordered and his marines provided fire cover for scant few humans still standing and guarding, soon enough they were all on their way towards the surface.
"The Emperor protects" the sole marine guarding the exit from the doomed city said.
Then the violence escalated ,wielding his flamer and sword he began to cull the creatures that thought to follow the retreating soldiers and leave the city, after uncountable millennia, they finally had food again, and were not eager to let it leave now that it's this close.
Deeper into the city marine sprinted hard to the generator that was some 100 meter away from the city pillar ,it still hummed gently with residual energy, no doubt powered by the geo thermal energies of this world.
He activated the countdown of the explosives on the pillars and those on his chest, they were ticking their final countdown.
His speed was getting slower, the ground was moist and sticky, no doubt from the bodily fluids of the creatures, it was here where they bred through mitosis, he could feel thousands of hungry arms seeking to devour him just centimeters away from him, but he didn't stop for a second , rushing against the great generator he shouted one last time
"For the Emperor!" and rammed the giant metal construct, the explosives followed swiftly, and he went into the blaze of glory, the huge generator was disturbed by the immense explosion and it too shuddered, energy build up for millennia and lack of maintaining finally caught up to it. It finally released all its anger and pant up rage, from the cold steel heart of the generator built by a doomed race, fire roared once more and its top spewed smoke and brimstone, the roaring of the generator shook the earth and the cavernous system began to collapse, giant rocks fell onto the creatures smashing them, then the timed explosions generated at the pillar in the city it too collapsed and the cavern was beyond point of return, some creatures began to crawl back into the holes they appeared from, albeit too late.
The marine at the entrance was overwhelmed, his legs grasped tightly in the blobbed mess as it sought to burn through his armor, his rage and fire in his heart not dimming for a second as he spewed blessed promethium and his weaponry at the overwhelming numbers, he saw the generator and heard the explosion , he knew his brother was dead, but he did not felt sorrow in his heart as he knew that all just servants of the Emperor go to him.
Before being wholly overwhelmed, he saw the generator explode in immense explosion, the wrath of the dead xenos unleashed upon their exterminators.
"May we meet on the fields of Kosovo brother, amongst the saints of our Chapter..." He said even as his form was finally giving way to the overwhelming numbers.
The creatures released him for a moment to gaze at the fireball expanding from where the generator was, they collectively screamed in unison as they knew they were doomed.
Mortally wounded marine just expanded his arms, his broken armor and flesh paled in comparison to the strength of his spirit; he embraced the fire and the peace that came dying in the Emperors service.
Flames purified the doomed city and abominable creatures inhabiting it. Such was the explosion that the cavernous system caved in, and outward explosion blew through and upwards, lava spewed from the core drained by the generator in its last death throes, it began to fill the canyon where the river once was, the darkness of the canyon was illuminated by the lava, and the bottom of the canyon was filled with bones and remains of the dead alien race, and blobby creatures frozen in place by the damning perma winter, only waking from their hibernation as the molten earth touched them, burning them and causing them to scream as they could not escape due to extremely low temperatures of the bottom of the canyon, one by one, the lava consumed them all. The canyon now glow with red light of the lava, swimming at its bottom and coming from the giant opening caused by the explosion of the generator.
Explosion could be seen from orbit, and many pilots saw the frozen planet burning at one spot in the city, they tried to contact any party down in hopes of explanation, but they were deep into the ground for vox waves to reach them.
Soldiers were running madly towards the exit signaled by the servo skull, their only companions residual explosions in the background and earthquakes, they prayed to the Emperor that these walls hold enough for them to escape.
"Holy Emperor, faster, move faster!"one of the guards shouted at his comrades.
"What is this…is it warm here?" another noticed as he began to sweat profusely.
"It's not you idiot, we are sprinting that is why you are sweating, now hurry it up!"
" Quickly, I can see our comrades in front of us, we are catching up to them!"
The back column of guard noticed something.
"Look, there is light behind us. Did the marine survive? "
Few of them stood and watch, and to their horror they saw the bottom pipes burst open and fill the room with lava. To their surprise the level of lava rose, the old pipes made from plasteel lost their strength through millennia of disuse, and now burst open when lava flew through them once more. Unknown to anyone, the Generator itself was the final attempt of the richest and smartest peoples in this part of the city to warm themselves following global catastrophe, its pipes were running deep, all the way to the molten core of the planet, and now all the pent up pressure from millennia caused the core to destabilize and pump lava in maddening quantities to the surface.
"Holy shit!" one of them exclaimed.
"Don't blaspheme! RUN!" his friend ran and almost dragged him by the arm.
"Hurry it up you idiots! There is lava behind us, its rising! " they shouted at the comrades in front of them.
"I told you it was warm here!" guard told to his friend.
"yeah, well il give you a medal later, now pick up the pace!"
They climbed faster and faster, sweating as temperatures constantly rose.
"We wont make it, the lava lever rises faster than we can climb! " one of the adepts noticed. They saw even as they climbed massive plasteel built stairs that went downwards to the lowest levels.
Some quarians noticed the precarious situation, after debating amongst them on the run and spoke.
"Imperati Agrippa, your people have done enough, it is our turn to return the favour."
"What do you mean Quarian? "
"My friends and I will use our tools and erect the shield and stop the lava from rising, at that opening" he pointed where the stairs ended. "Afterwards there is another climb similar to this one, if we do not do this, then it will all be in vain and we will be consumed by fire."
Agrippa thought for a moment and knew it was the only way, he himself thought how to stop the flow and would attempt to weld some metal to the entrance to stop the lava. He knew the quarian shield could do that much better.
"Honor and Glory Quarian, it was an honor." Agrippa said and extended his metallic arm.
Quarian hesitated for a moment, not expecting this display of respect and embraced his arm.
"Honor and Glory Imperati. Keelah se'lai"
They then sped up, and after they all passed through they continued to run, followed only by the gaze of the 5 doomed quarians, whom then promptly erected the shield wall to contain the lava spread.
Their fate was sealed, even as the companions climbed the final set of stairs, lava began to push against the wall, for if the wall collapsed their comrades would all be dead.
Temperatures rose up drasticly, so much so the Engineers of the Quarian Reich felt like they will boil in their suits while holding the wall with their omni tools.
"it was an honor " the Engineer said as he fell to his knees, his flesh seared inside his suit, he set his omni tool to hold the wall for as long as it has energy, one by one, all died from heat and collapsed, their omni tools still glowing brightly as even in death, they held the line for their comrades, be they human, or xenos.
After the last climb they saw the snow covered exit, they were inside a vast hangar that no doubt held the materials to build this place, to their surprise, their climb was faster than anticipated, it was still sunny outside, and they quickly established perimeter, after checking if they are alone they went outside, bright light reflecting from the snow hurting their eyes.
They saw one of the bigger buildings not far away and all began to run through the open field towards it, marines first to check for enemy traps, and seeing there are none, formed the defensive perimeter around the building. They all piled inside and searched for hostiles, finding none, they finally could rest for a moment, only now did the sun began to descend behind the mountains brining darkness and much needed rest to the survivors.
"Will this nightmare ever end…"one of the soldiers told his friend, while they sat down "I just lost my brother down there!" he slammed his fist hardly on his own helmet, grief overtaking him. "
One quarian approached him, it was the same quarian which had "accidently" kicked the coffee pot days before.
Eyes red from grieving, the imperial looked at him, clenching his teeth hardly like an animal ready to pounce, he gazed at him eyes full of rage, but before he could respond the quarian did something.
"Imperati, what your brother and your kin done for us will never be forgotten. As a gesture of my respect I will do this." He said and knelt gently on one leg; he removed his helmet with a silent hiss coming upon detachment and placed it by his side.
He then inhaled the fresh cold air, and locked his eyes with the imperial lying on the ground. "in my culture, connecting suits with another quarian meant the utmost trust and respect. you have no suit Imperati, but you breathe now the same air I do."
He removed one of his gloves and touched the snowy floor, gently scooping particles of perma frost mixed with dirt, and caressing them with his finger. "and my fingers now touch the same soil yours do."
Quarian has noticed blood on the pants of the imperial, he or one of his comrades have been wounded, he continued.
"Your blood graces the soil of this planet and your heart bleeds. " he took one of the knives he had attached to his back, moving ever slowly with his hands he neared it his open hand and quickly sliced his palm. Clenching slightly the purple liquid began to drip onto the ground, mixing snow, dirt and blood. "now my blood soaks the soil, in respect for your brother and what he has done for us, for our people."
"May our bloods merge together in unity, for those we love, and for those we must protect, and for those who are not among us."
With his bloody hand he gracefully painted a symbol on his mask, representing the sign "Iriminikis" or "unity" in the tongue of Quarians. He attached the mask to his side, and did not place it back on his face. Slowly standing up, the imperial as in trance following suit and standing face to face, the entire building was silent, all were looking in utmost silence and respect for the ritual occurring in front of them, even the silent, stoic marines kept watching what occurred with something akin to curiosity, they respected brotherhood and such acts of respect were admired by them.
Now standing face to face, they looked each other in the eyes to the silent gaze of everyone around them. With that, the quarian extended his hand in a very humanlike gesture while it still bled mildly.
The imperial soldier gazed him in the eyes, then in his arm, his comrades silent observants to the event.
After considering what to do for a moment or so, the old imperial veteran of many wars, embraced the hand, for he knew, that even amongst the detestable alien races he saw in his life, one thing he could respect in them was a very human like concept which many of them lacked. Honor.
They shook their hand by grasping each other by the forearm, much akin to ancient Roman tribe of now long gone Terra.
Many quarians present bowed their heads slightly as they bear witness to one of the customs very rarely seen in these dark times.
Imperial soldiers, while some held disdain for what occurred, were very much silent, respectfully so, soldiers to soldiers, they respected the gesture they almost never saw, and from another race at that.
Even the commissars, whom would sanction such cohabitation with alien races with extreme measures are now letting this pass, for this would forge a strong battle efficiency between the Imperial Guard and the Quarians, there will be no repercussions to this, for military and soldier honour was sacrosanct in their eyes, so they were taught at the Academia, regardless of the race, honour among soldiers should never be curtailed.
They held their hands, understanding of each other to the silent gaze of everyone else, before releasing the grip in silence and returning to their own comrades, one by one, they all took positions in the building to rest, very carefully as if seeking not to disturb the respectful atmosphere ruling over the place, as night finally descended on the planet, only sound coming from the building now was a gentle hum of the heat generator warming the weary combatants whom found common ground with each other.
Morning once more comes and besides the vigilant guards and the marines, companions wake up to the smell of familiar smells, the brewing of coffee, the gentle hum of the generator which warmed them up from the piercing cold of the outside, they gather their bearings and equipment once more expecting word to march onwards.
Agrippa takes the moment to talk to his vox caster.
"Did we heard from our comrades on the other side?"
"Yes Lord Agrippa, we have, our message yesterday after we exited the tunnels has been received by the larger group, I have promptly warned them about Shayogan beings and advised them to avoid any subterranean buildings at all costs. They have not reported any contact, and their advance towards the target has been going efficiently.
Also, our position is not that far away from them, by crossing the tunnels we have emerged into the city, but they had to circle around many ruined buildings and pathways before making similar progress.
Per your command they will advance onwards and secure the building with the Quarian scout team and await our arrival, which if the weather is optimal will take us small 3 hours delay compared to them. "
"Very good Voxerius, join the group, we continue onwards."
"Lord."the Vox Caster bowed and returned to his fellow adepts.
The group then advanced from the building and towards the signal of the lost quarian scouts. Both humans and quarians were marching side by side, no longer disunited, the events of the past days brought them closer, much to the grudge of the older veterans of both parties.
They have passed many ruined buildings and pathways, not long before they found the faint tracks of the bigger group from whom they were separated at the bridge, this boosted the morale of both the quarians and humans at the prospect of meeting their comrades.
Then the ground shook violently, an earthquake shattered many old buildings and collapsed them, some on top of the poor soldiers that happened to be next to them, its violent shooks didn't last long, but enough to collapse several ancient buildings and open a rift in the ground.
" What was that, I thought this planet was stable!" one of the admech adepts spoke to his comrade.
" It was…the generator, could it do this?"
soldiers and marines alike tried to remove debris to see if there are any survivors under the rocks, Agrippa and his Admech priests came to the open rift in the middle of the road, it led deep into the bowels of earth, and down at the very end, red light and smell of brimstone, it was lava bubbling several hundred meters into its depth.
" Strip-mined" Agrippa spoke " They have strip mined their planet beforehand into history, adept miners it would seem, too adept. They have excavated resources to the point where their planetary core was destabilized. And the generator was like a trigger putting it all into motion. This is not good"
" What does that mean lord Agrippa? " his fellow adept spoke
" it means my dear Ruffinius that this planet is once more tectonically active, it probably was highly volcanic back in its day, this frost just cooled the planets temper, but has not extinguished its fire.
This would explain why the ruins only exist on northern and southern poles of the planet, this was once extremely warm planet, volcanism must have been common.
We must hurry , we can't idle as we risk this entire city collapsing on top of us."
37 men died that day under the ruins, and companions had to leave their bodies , buried under a foreign soil as they carried onwards.
They have carried onwards, slow steps on the snowy fields where once asphalt used to stand, they passed empty shells of living buildings and prosperous bureaucratic centers which once housed tens of thousands of workers, factories which now were caved in due to permafrost placing pressure upon their roofs with the passing of millennia, a veritable graveyard of once was civilization.
Passing through all this, and as if the weather was gentle enough,there was no wind and no snow falling, visibility was good and they entered and aved what they have saw.
Statues tall as skyscrapers in the shapes of the xenos which once ruled the planet, boulevards constructed in such a way that they could handle thousands and thousands of people marching in unison on them.
Surrounding them were beautiful buildings, not built from plasteel and other modern materials, they were built from the stones of this planet, and their beauty was still untainted by the passage of time as the already white stone of this world gained new shine from the snow which gently filled the insides of the buildings and coated its walls with ice.
The companions looked around them as they saw intricate columns displaying the histories of this race, its wars, its technological advancements, its history and its soul.
Statues created in such a way that resembled ancient statues of terra, built from white stone and still standing, so long after the fall, still standing, their hands raised to the skies and the destiny to the stars which once held future for this race.
Some, toppled from the elements, built from metals which had not taken well to the frostbiting cold of the world, some gazed at the face of this race, avian like with smooth facial features, beaks where mammalian mouths are, eyes unlike those of a bird, were humanlike, a quick scan from one of the adepts proven the presence of a colour washed away with time, blue, green, purple, so many eye colorations, even the companions could not be idle and untouched by the beauty of this place, so uncannily preserved when compared to the rest of the planet. The aliens had feathers in shape of hair, also with many colorations, green, yellow, red.
This enormous place was something out of an antiqued dream, the soul of this race was invested here, where their leaders, their priests and kings, their Gods now rest.
Even here, where art meets tradition, there was sorrow, the trace remains of the xenos were in the ground, everywhere, scans from adepts show that thousands, maybe millions died here, their remains calcified with the soil, once can only assume as to their purpose here, perhaps some resorting to death came here to die in peace, or perhaps some of these ancient figures were their Gods, and they came to pray here, one cannot know anymore, for time swept away even their dreams and aspirations, even their culture and tongue, only the soul of this place remains ever shining even when forogten by all, the remains of those who once walked the stars, their monument and their plea to the galaxy, almost as if saying. We existed, witness our deeds, and remember us.
This long avenue led directly to the great building where the quarian scout ship was, and it wasn't long before they caught up to the other part of the imperial and quarian army, greetings were exchanged and tales spoken of what both groups survived.
The march past the bridge was uneventful one, the larger group had to circle around and enter the city from another entry point, they passed long fields filled with remains of the broken vehicles of war, charred remains of the hulls and other metallic scrap, they spoke of many tens of thousands of vehicles which now littered the great plain and frozen wasteland outside of the city, not willing to enter the field due to possible mines placed in times long gone, they avoided that place, finding giant hangar filled with rusted and beyond broken flyer units, there they rested for the night.
Then they found an entrance into the city, and with swift march over more or less clean highway came upon this place, they entered the city from the west, and Agrippas group entered from the south, emerging from the tunnel inside the city.
Now that both groups are united they established perimeter around the great building, establishing improve bunkers in the ruined remains of the habitats that encericled this place, they sought to dig fox holes and trenches before proceeding, but the ground was so frozen it would be an impossible task, and according to their estimates, it is noon already.
So they encamped, entrenched and prepared. Agrippa took Felix , and few of his best men, accompanied with them were bigger party of Quarians, engineers and soldiers, it was their scout ship and they knew how to open it.
They came upon it near the great building, which itself was decorated with statues and frozen pools of water, long dead plantlife and broken pillars made from softer materials. Whatever the building was, it was obviously important to the dead race of this world.
Agrippa spoke when they approached the shuttle.
"let us open your vessel, extract information from it, I do not want to enter that building without at least having any understanding of what they searched here."
"Indeed Imperati, let us get to it." One of the Quarian engineers said and began to code his omni tool, sound from the shuttle indicated the command was accepted, but doors did not move.
"Bosh tet, the doors are fused tight with the frost, we must open them up, it will take time…"
"Not necessarily, if I may?" Agrippa spoke to the quarian, which gesticulated with his hand towards the shuttle. And with no sound beyond the binary which the quarians cant hear, three silent servitors rushed to the door and began cutting it through with their tools, within 30 seconds the door was detached with violent thud by the servitors.
Agrippa and Quarian engineer went inside, besides being frozen it would seem the shuttle was in working order, luckily the new quarian ships held a specific type of black box in them, one which can take majority of temperatures without problem, detaching the frozen panel, the engineer took it out and connected into it.
"What did you find engineer?"
"There is nothing here…nothing that would sanction the landing on this world. I don't understand, this seems like…."
His line of words was violently cut by the sound of gunfire outside.
"What the blazes… "the quarian spoke and Agrippa rushed outside.
From within the giant building came forth hundreds if not thousands of degenerated monstrosities of the worst kind, humans, quarians, krogan, salarian, all rushed and opened fire at the entrenched imperials and quarians.
"Hold the line! "One commissar stood up from his position waving his sword, "not one step backwards! Drive the spawn into the abyss"
But the bullet wounds took an arm, impacted flesh, opened a hole in the bodies of the charging things, horrendous damage and to no avail, infused by the might of the plague God they surged onwards, many rotting or mutated beyond belief, carrying swords, melee weapons, rotting armour and guns, they cared not for the damage done upon them, they simply sought to kill their healthy kin.
"By the Omnissiah!" Agrippa shouted as he saw the influx of the monstrosities. "It's a Trap!". The quarian shuttle was halfway between the building and the positions where the imperials stood and fought, between hammer and anvil. He saw that the Quarian engineer was still coding his omni tool into the black box ,and shouted at him.
"Leave that thing! We must retreat, we got incoming!"
"No! the black box has a timer for self-erasing, if we leave now all of it will be for naught, I must break into it deeper, if for nothing else to discern where this shuttle went and who set up us a trap. You must protect me while I work imperati, trust me!" the Quarian was wild eyed as he worked as fast as he could.
Agrippa gazed at him for a second
"Whatever you have to do, do it fast! "
He said to him and equiped Kalmador's plasma pistol and went outside.
"With me brothers, we must buy time for the engineer, it is paramount to our success!"
Then they unloaded onto the incoming horde, plasma impact was deadly to the flesh of the abominations, but the plague ridden humans kept shooting at them ,and Quarians erected shields to protect from incoming fire as they were stuck on the open.
Felix and his Skitarii began to fire from their advanced rifles and caused great purge against the oncoming creatures, while the plague humans sought to be careful in their approach, worst were Krogan, their bodies swollen with pestilence and blessings of the plague God they carried gigantic sword seeping green ooze from them and kept charging, blood rage fueled into overdrive by the chaos tainted magics, even as they suffered beyond mortal wounds they kept coming.
Quarian soldiers used their very own rifles and fired at the creatures, much to their horror their very own kin charged them, masks long gone, insect like mandibles in place of mouths and dozens of eyes like spiders on their faces, their hands mutated and 3 long green claws made from bone were now on their hands in place of fingers, they were fast, fastests of the abominations that attacked and were closing ground fast.
Salarians dragged themselves slowly, they bodies swollen and filled with acidic juices, they dragged their bellies with their hands across the ground, and when within certain range their bloated heads opened their mouths and they spat towards Agrippas group.
Impacts on the shields were bad, only technical expertise of the Quarians prevented them from shortcutting and leaving Agrippa and the others without any sort of defense against ranged fire.
Spits and bullets were incoming in great quantities , one quarian impacted with the spit began to shake as acidic liquid melted through his suit and onto his skin.
"N-no! No! Arghhhh, get this suit off meeee!"he screamed as he waved his arms across the suit in order to remove the liquid, causing his arms to burn and melt
"Iyeeerrgggh…."was the last sound he uttered as he collapsed onto the ground ,only sound now coming from him sizzling of the melting flesh.
"Holy Terra!" Felix shouted as he saw him melt. "Fire! Keep Firing! Don't let them close"
Humans far from the shuttle were also pressed hard as creatures rushed from all entrances of the building, there were many of them, this was elaborate trap and it worked. They could not provide any meaningful assistance to Agrippa who was further away from them.
Marines were effective in decimating the ranks of the attacking enemies and their bolters were highly effective against the rotting flesh of the enemy.
"Lord Agrippa will die!" one of the skitarii in the back lines spoke as he saw his position getting encircled.
It was at this moment that one of the flag bearers of the imperial guard stood up from the position they held, he waved his flag and shouted.
"Attack fellow soldiers, Unless you wish to betray your standard to the enemy, I, for my part, will perform my duty to the Imperium and to my Lord."
With that he rushed onwards. Shamed by their lack of action the entire line surged forwards, commissars leading the soldiers towards Agrippa and his position.
Quarians, seeing this occur, and unwilling to be cowardly in the face of terror, also gathered their wits about and rallied by their officers charged along the Imperials.
"By the Homeworld! Let us show these Imperatii that we are made of stern stuff, let us show them how Quarians fight, for the Fuhrer Arahi! For the Quarian Reich! Uraaaa!"
"URAAAA!" they screamed at the top of their lungs and were sprinting fast against the enemy.
Both armies charged and fired their weapons, but to their surpise they were not the only ones charging, they were quickly outran by the Emperors finest. Space marines now rushed alongside them, carrying dual handed chainswords in a display of martial courage, they went past their comrades and towards enemy lines, violently impacting against the enemy and beginning to rip them apart with their power axes and chainsword, melee experts showing why Space Marines are the Emperors finest as they put fear into the bones of the plague carriers.
Situation was getting bad near the shuttle as krogan managed to reach into melee range, swinging their huge axes infused by the very might of disease and carved through the Quarian soldiers, splitting them in half easily.
Thanks to the chaos and its power these krogan now easily stood 3 meters tall and were stronger than before, seeing no other way to stop them ,several quarians jumped on top of him, stabbing him violently with their knives and driving him to the ground, but he simply wouldn't die and trashed around trying to shake them off, punching one in his helmet and breaking it, he flew two meters away and landed on his back.
"Urgh…"he spat purple blood on the ground and gazed again at the Krogan fighting his comrades trying to shake them off. He discarded his now broken mask and got 2 of the granates he had on him and ran up to the Krogan who by this point shook off the quarians and was beginning to stand up. He came to him ramming him with his shoulder and they both fell. Now eye to eye, the Quarian screamed at him as he pressured both grenades on top of his body. "RAH TAH LOOOSS!" he screamed the name of Quarian God of War directly into the face of the monster as purple blood and spit mixed and impacted him on the face, an instant later and they were both gone in flames.
Other Quarians seeing heroic sacrifice of their comrade all raised their fists to the heaven and shouted as well "RAH TAH LOS!"and then they engaged the closest enemy.
Chaos Quarians used their huge claws to rip apart anyone that were close enough, but the combat mad quarians drove them to the ground stabbing them repeatedly with their knives, shooting them before getting close and lobed their granades which decimated the enemy.
Agrippa used his left hand and fired a plasma shot onto the nearest Chaos infused quarian which exploded violently, but to his right another one screaming jumped and swung his claws at him, he raised his right metallic hand and thunderous clang could be heard as bone impacted metal, the creature wanted to swing its other hand but was stopped in its tracks as one of the metal limbs on Agrippas back turned around and grasped it by the head, twisting it to a sick crunch, breaking its spine and motor functions as it helplessly fell to the ground, grunting as it could no longer move. Agrippa raised his right foot and stomped on its head, the creature twitched as the sick crunch crushed its head.
One by one, men around him began to die, and Felix was struggling to keep the enemy away from his lord as they kept coming, one Krogan creature kicked Felix into his chest sending him flying away and it swung its huge axe in order to finish the job as Agrippa couldn't aim due to being jumped by a wild eyed plague ridden human whom also came into melee range.
Felix could do nothing as his rifle fell far from him, and almost impotently crossed his arms expecting to die, seconds later the krogan creatures was dead, its head exploded by a well-placed bolter round. He saw as the krogan fell backwards and away from him, and saw marines passing besides him engaging the enemy around Agrippa, chainswords swinging wildly and cutting through enemy.
One of them stood up next to him and extended him a hand, which he grabbed eagerly, then the marine was rushing forward again. Felix found his rifle and joined the battle.
Combined arms of Humans, Space Marines and Quarians was too much for the creatures, and being obliterated they fell back into the building, much to the cheers of the victorious soldiers.
Then green light flashed from within the building itself and ground began to shake.
"Another Earthquake? " Felix said as he caught up with Agrippa.
"No….much worse" Agrippa kept staring at the building.
Seconds later the building exploded from within, and taking its first uncertain step of birth was something born out of primordial nightmare.
With four thick stumpy legs, filled with pusses and boils, came stomping out of the ruin a gigantic plague creature, some 30 to 40 meters tall ,bloated beyond belief, the smell caused men to retch, and its appearance was enough to frighten those of weak heart, from within the torso came 2 rotten and fat arms, its belly was split open and intestines spilled out freely, opened intestines spawned more nurgling creatures. The creature itself had no discernable origin, it was all xenos and human races In one, mutilated and fused by foulest of magics.
The building was preset as a giant ritual trap, as people died fighting, the magics were fuelled by emotions and despair, hope and rage, and with so much death and suffering the ritual worked, and the creature was summoned.
The creature spoke
"IULIUM ASTOROPERMIO GECENTRI ET! AMBNIMI ERATI! " in a language unknown.
"DOOM HAS COME TO YOU ALL" before saying it in a language of low gothic which even the frightened quarians understood.
At that moment the quarian engineer came outside form the ship.
"I Got it have the data, and..….What the hell is that!?" he shouted pointing at the towering abomination.
"Fight for your lives!" Agrippa said and fired at it.
Then the creature attacked, swinging its long arms and tentacles , breaking bones and killing humans close to it whom fired helplessly onto it.
Plasma weaponry doing considerable damage, but against such huge abomination it was all but pointless, nurglings latched onto quarians and humans alike drawing them into the mass of flesh all too eager to devour them.
And then the horde resumed its attack against the companions all the while newly spawned beast kept pushing onwards.
"This is Agrippa! We need reinforcements, deploy fighters with fire based weaponry, we are under attack!" he yelled at his vox to the fleet.
"Affirmative! Fighters are dispatched, hold on!" voice from the other side confirmed.
"Easier said than done…"he said as he saw the lumbering monster approaching ever nearer.
"Skitarii! With me, concentrate fire at its head, drive the fiend.
Guardsmen, I want suppressing fire at the advancing horde!
For the Emperor men! Make him proud this day!"
"For the Emperor! "was heard from thousand throats as soldiers get to their bloody business.
Skitarii used their high tech rifles and aimed their projectiles at the beasts head, firing at its many eyes, Felix encouraging them to take it down. This tactic worked, as the beast was too busy shielding its eyes from the oncoming fire instead of concentrating on killing.
The Guard took firing position and picked their targets with impunity, charging monsters were shot down one by one even as they came in seemingly endless numbers.
"Get that mortal rolling!" sergeant said to the soldiers still behind the lines. "I want to see them blow up in pieces! FIRE!"
Then the roar of portable mortars was heared and the whistling of the shell was the last thing plagued creatures noticed before their bones turned to dust and their limbs were scattered all over the battlefield.
One taller than usual plague quarian whom displayed worrying levels of intelligence poised his sights on his normal kin as he exited the shuttle pod and made his way to where he was, charging violently even as lasgun beams pierced his body, blessings of the plague God giving him unimaginable endurance.
"Ccccomeee to me cousinnn!" he barely uttered to him, his vocal cords deteriorated beyond belief, all the while picking guardsmen with his arms and throwing them around, his strength surprising for someone so decayed.
"By the Homeworld, get back beast! " he said and enacted an energy shield just as the plague quarian swung his arm towards him, reflecting the blow and forcing him to fall on his back, he took that chance to run away.
"Cousiiiinnnnnn!" the plague quarian bellowed, spiting green viscera and infectious spit as he got up and went after him, still taking shots from the guardsmen even as they blew away one of his arms.
He ran after him admist the chaos of the battle, he was far faster than his normal kin, long legs with mutated bones and muscles, which even when rotten were far stronger than the normal quarians, but was suddenly stopped as his head turned to mush from an impact of the weapon he never saw coming.
Collapsing on the battlefield the quarian creature was dead, killed by the Chaplain of the White Eagles, he gave the plague monster one last glance as he concentrated onto the plague titanic creature still trying to protect itself against the concentrated fire of the skitarii, and began to march slowly towards it.
Then the flyers from the fleet came by, 5 of them did a fly by and fired their load of promethium rockets at the creature and striked at it, the explosion was violent and it burnt the side of the creature, doing horrific damage, but not enough to kill it, the side of it regenerating due to all the mass of flesh and bodies it constantly consumed as it fought on the battlefield.
Then the monster did the unexpected thing and just ripped open its belly, ejecting gore and bodily fluids everywhere, even towards the skitarii whom tried to dodge, some failing, and instantly melting into piles of bones all the while screaming in pain.
"Pitiful….insects….you dare!" it spoke angrily even as its mass almost healed up from the fighters doing their sortie.
"YOU DARE!"it bellowed and used one of its tentacles, smacking the quarian scout vessel to the side, launching it fast into the nearby building where it exploded.
The monster looked pleased with itself as it knew it will feast this day well and bring many new faithful into the embrace of the grandfather Nurgle.
"I dare." The voice strong as thunder came from among the companions.
The creature turned its head to see who was this new challenger, and saw that the Chaplain of the White Eagles passed through his men, two krogan beasts trying to stop him, he planted the crozius in the head of one of them, caving his skull in and killing it, the other swung its axe horizontally, but the Chaplain dodged it. He then used the Crozius and swung at its knee breaking it, the creature fell face first onto the ground, not even getting the chance to get back up as its head was caved in by the massive boot of the marine.
"You will fare no better little creature! I am the blessed of Nurgle, his first exarch on this plain and…"
"His first, and his last, you die today." The marine spoke and cut the monologue of the monster as he charged it.
Heavy boots stomping hard as he sprinted, a swing by the tentacle, the marine jumped over it, then came the fist from above, Crozius meeting it mid-flight and shattering it with its blessed energies, the creature screamed and clenched its teeth before trying to vomit over the chaplain.
"Blessed Emperor, protect me!"he prayed and the Crozius glow brightly, its energies shielding the Chaplain as the spit washed over the energies surrounding him, and leaving him unharmed.
He came up to the beast and struck him with full force on its right, it yelled viciously, feeling the burn of the blessed energy as it seared its unholy flesh.
To the amazed look of all the companions the Chaplain began climbing it with great speed grasping the foul and tainted flesh of its body.
"Get off me ,worm! " the creature bellowed and tried to shake him off by shaking violently to no avail, then it tried to use its arm but was once more met with the crozius punching it away. The Chaplain was now close to its face, it tried to spit at him, but he dodged it by jumping on the other part of its flesh and began its climb again.
He was now near its face.
"You talk too much for something within striking distance." The Chaplain said as he landed the first blow onto its face to the immense roar and pain of the hurt monster, his swings were fast and each was stronger than the last, the creature tried to shake him off ,slaping him on the back with its tentacle, but to no avail as Chaplain was now fully dedicated to his duty, landing blow after blow the monster screaming loudly more and more, he grasped the Crozius in both of his hands lifting it above his head and yelled before swinging it downwards.
"FOR THE EMPEROR!"
Then he lowered his weapon to a sickening crunch and the crackle of energy field of his weapon, the monster just gargled mildly then toppled backwards and collapsed, the Chaplain safely jumping away and landing on his feet.
The monsters ,seeing its leader dead began to fall back, shot all the way as they retreated into the building.
Men began cheering victoriously as they defeated the dreaded enemy of their race.
"Imperium! VICTRIX!" the flag bearer, the one who led the first charge stood up upon the pile of rubble nearby and yelled towards his men, lifting the flag high above his head and displaying it proudly. fists went up into the air and jubilated crowds repeated after the standard bearer.
Even the Quarians joined the hailing and celebrations, as they congratulated each other on the victorious battle, quarians to imperials, imperials to quarians, this victory belonged to all. Only the stoic space marines were looking at their Chaplain with utmost respect as he joined their ranks and was approached by Apothecary to tend to his wounds.
Agrippa reported to the fleet and ordered orbital bombardment on the building where the monsters retreated.
He then came to the Quarian engineer standing next to his men celebrating.
"Do you have the data?"
"Indeed I do imperati, come let us discuss."
They retreated away from the loud crowd of happy soldiers.
"What do you have Engineer? "
"The location where this shuttle went and when it came here, its flight data shows when it entered the plague stars region and then its erratic path led it to a star system here"he pointed at the map displayed by his omni tool. "from that point onwards the shuttle came directly to this planet, the distress signal was sent a day later."
"And about the Quarian which survived?"
"I wouldn't know, but I can assume he was tortured and then sent here to drag us, he was beyond broken when he came, it's a miracle he managed to utter the name of this planet, as for the word Shayogan he used, maybe he tried to warn us, but was unable."
"I see. Send the coordinates to the fleet, we will make haste to this system, I have a feeling this is where we will meet our quary."
Then the soldiers were ordered to fall back away from the building. When they were within safe distance, the ships in orbit obliterated the building and nearby building blocks, making a huge half kilometer crater in place where the building was.
Seeking to evacuated the men before dark, they dispatched transport vessels onto the nearby frozen plain where they will pick up the men, the original Landing zone was dismantled fast and the imperium evacuated there, now only the heroes of this expedition entered their ship.
Quarians marched towards their own transport pod, one of them a female medic was among them, she was shaken by someone yelling.
Naturaly the entire column of quarians turned to see who was shouting, it was the imperial guard whose life was saved by her actions at the bridge. He ran up to her.
"I would not let you depart before thanking you properly. "He said and extended his arm to her. The Quarian column slowed its entering to watch the scene occurring, on the imperial side, the soldiers did not object, they fought with these quarians, bled and died with them, they would not disgrace the moment this soldier had, even the Commissars respectfully ignored what he did.
She took his hand shyly. "I…you are welcome Imperati"she smiled behind her mask, she was young, one of the new Quarians born on the new homeworld.
"What is your name ? "he asked her. She was taken aback by his interest.
"Amelia…like the sun of our new homeworld." Her eyes found themselves staring at the ground, flustered a bit.
"Amelia…"he said, feeling how nicely her name came across his lips. I owe you my life Amelia, I am Frigus. It was my honor to have fought by your side. "
"And mine as well, thank you." She said to him
"May you always find glory in battle and victory, until the day we meet once more." He said. "here, take this."he offered her a piece of small reddish wood. "this wood grows only on my homeworld, back….well. it is a long way from here. I want you to have this."
"But….i couldn't Imperati…" she shook her hands
"It is customary for my people to offer gifts from our homeworld to those who offered us a great help on the battlefield. And you have saved my life, I could not think of a bigger help than that."
"Thank you…Frigus, I accept" she said and gently nodded her head.
"Take care Amelia, Goodbye."he said and made few step backwards and then turned and went to his men who themselves entered their transports shits, followed by her gaze on his back. She looked at the piece of wood, and stashed it in one of her most secure filters on the suit, she was then tapped merrily on the back by one of the other quarians and they proceeded to enter the ship.
The vessels took off before the night came and brought deadly cold back onto the surface of the planet, they left its orbit, the soldiers were tired, and they only thought of resting on the ships as they approached the main fleet.
And on the main deck, Agrippa reported to the fleet along with the Quarian Engineer who extracted the information, in detail they spoke what happened there.
"What shall we do with the planet?" Tiberius spoke as he looked at the white planet bellow them. Joined by the gaze of his high officers and allies.
Aurelian spoke next "It is a tomb for a dead race, and it carries dangers beneath. But I say there is no need to destroy it, the tectonic movement caused by the generator explosion will change the landscape of the planet in the future."he pointed as there was now lava gloving on the dark side of the planet in the big canyon and on other places, volcanic eruptions occurred all over the planet.
"Perhaps…" Tiberius spoke "Let this planet remain a tomb for a dead race, deploy the probe with a warning radiating from it, let the galaxy know this planet will bring death to any who land there."
They all agreed after a smaller debate. The probe was launched from the capital ship of the imperium and began emanating its signal in low gothic and other languages of xenos. it warned of considerable dangers if trespassed upon.
The fleet charted its new course found by the data pad and prepared to depart.
"Let our hearts be brave, and our spirits strong, the Emperor protects, as we bring death to his enemies even in the darkest corners of the universe. " Tiberius spoke and ordered the fleet to move to the mass relay before departing the dreaded system where only beeping of the probe echoed in the vast emptiness of space.