“Hell is something you carry around with you. Not somewhere you go.”
– Neil Gaiman, The Sandman
Thruster downdraft kicked up a cyclone blast of dust and tiny bones.
Behind her the Rogue Trader dropship leaped raptor-like back into the sky, ostensibly to provide covering fire, though – rather more pragmatically – the Captain was getting well clear of the impending storm about to be unleashed.
Kallatar couldn’t blame the Captain for not wanting to be part of this fight, she herself had been dreading it for fifteen years, since the day the Kroot Pathfinder Blel Kadri had found her and delivered the grim news – the daemonhost Skvorax had survived the Ordo Malleus purge known as the Xolomon Deviance, and was loose in Imperial space.
The purge of the Brood rogue moon had gone sour fast; ninety-nine Grey Knight Astartes died in the horror of the so-called victory. They died because she had failed to convince Huges de Ardens, the Brimstone Inquisitor, to utilise her more radical methods – like arming the moon’s native Kroot with Inquisition weaponry, as an example. De Ardens wouldn’t consider arming filthy xenos – so the Kroot fought anyway, and died in their thousands alongside the Knights. She blamed herself for that, too.
Kallatar and de Ardens had not parted on the best of terms, and for the decade after she had been declared Heretic. When she found Blel Kadri, she risked all to take the Kroot directly to de Ardens; to her surprise, instead of arresting her, this time he listened to her.
And so they formed the strategy that today was reaching culmination, fifteen years later.
The ground beneath her boots started to vibrate from heavy weapons fire. In the tunnel system below de Ardens and his Ordo Malleus battle-retinue were commencing the engagement of the Enemy daemonhosts. Off to the east, eye-watering light bursts and rolling thunder marked the Deathwatch kill-team skirmishing with the traitorous Wretched Sons. On yet another unseen front, the Skeleton Crew heavy mercs were cleaning out a vast nest of sacrificial human cultists.
All of these attacks were diversions; the true thrust into the heart of the enemy stronghold – to find Skovorax and defang the snake – fell to the Ordo Xenos strike force. Kallatar herself was armed with the weapon that was capable of killing a creature like Skovorax, the Relic Blade Hellbringer – the recovery of that cursed weapon was another tale in itself.
The usual players were lined up: Fury the Gunslinger, toting her twin long-pistols Hell and Vengeance; the Sniper with her Imperial Guard-issued nalwood-stocked sniper rifle capable of killing anything within 2000 metres; the bio-mech Assassin, hidden-faced, razor-clawed, who relished in the act of murder; the clockwork-enhanced Samurai wielding her ancient blades; and the heavy-mech Wild Child, armed with that Tau gauss-gun that could punch a hole through Titan armour.
Somewhere up ahead, Skvorax was waiting.
Kallatar wondered then if any of them would survive.