Early Author's notes: Tried using the present tense earlier, but I'm so used to using the past tense I couldn't keep it all consistent. So back to the past we go!
Warhammer 40k is the property of Games Workshop
Warhammer 40 000:
ACT 1: The Gathering
The heretic, part 2
Moments after engaging another swarm, Titus heard the familiar, telltale whirring sound that rotary guns made just before they roared to spit bullets, and his conditioned reflexes allowed him to quickly spot the gunner. A large, portly man-rat stood down a hall, out of cover, his entire body framed with some sort of barebones mechanical skeleton that whirred and creaked as he brought his spinning weapon to bear. It cackled maniacally as it trained his massive belt-fed weapon at Titus's group.
"RATATAT!" it yelled, gleefully.
"MAXSON!" Titus shouted. "HEAVY GUNNER AT YOUR THREE O'CLOCK!"
Instead of responding like a Space Marine and shooting the gunner between the eyes immediately, Maxson dove for cover behind a metal pillar. Titus's eyes widened, and he joined the others in taking cover. Titus thanked the Emperor – the architect of the place liked thick pillars.
A rain of green tracers filled the corridor, keeping the group pinned, but the rat gunner had little concern for friendly fire. "RATATATAT-TAT!" it cackled, as its brethren exploded into fountains of blood. One of the projectiles ricocheted off the wall, hitting Merrill in the leg just as she was trying to fend off one of the man-rats lucky enough to evade the gunner's fire.
"Breed-Breed!" it giggled, just before Titus threw his knife, the large blade burying itself in its skull.
"MERRILL!" shouted Warrick over the din of gunfire, "ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!"
"I'll be okay!" she cried, as she quickly tied a tourniquet around her thigh to stop the bleeding. There would be time for proper first aid later.
The gunner stopped firing, and Titus took a quick glance out of cover to find out why – its large weapon was hissing steam, and it had just switched to a smaller, but no less deadly grenade launcher. Behind it, more man-rats were on the way, not caring one bit that the gunner had murdered almost a hundred of their numbers.
Not trusting Maxson to shoot on time, Titus aimed his Bolt Pistol at the rat gunner's grenade launcher and fired and both it and the swarm behind it were obliterated by the combined explosions of a single bolt blast and six chambered grenades.
It was quiet again.
"Are you alright, Specialist?" said Titus, as he recovered the knife from the rat-man's corpse near her. She had opened up her medkit, ready to pull out the projectile buried in her thigh. She screamed, dropping the long surgical pliers on the ground.
Titus quickly knelt besides her as Warrick stopped Maxson from checking on her. "You keep an eye out, boy."
Maxson began to protest. "But..!"
"Let the Marine handle it!"
Titus tore off the cloth over her wound, and his eyes widened. The hole was beginning to twist, and it was sucking flesh into a tiny green ember. The bone could be heard slowly cracking under the strain, warped by an an invisible swirl of dark energy, emanating from the glowing round buried in Merrill's flesh.
"TAKE IT OUT!" screamed Merrill. "PLEASE! IT HURTS!"
As the Specialist cried in agony, Titus picked up the pliers and took precious seconds taking out disinfectant from the medkit. Cleaning the tool was paramount: it was covered in the man-rat's tainted blood, and Titan did not want to save Merrill to survive all this only to die of a mere infection. "Specialist," he said, as he held her leg tight with one hand to keep it in place, pliers wielded in the other. "I am no apothecary, so this will hurt immensely."
The pliers quickly found their way to the bullet, and as it was yanked out Merrill screamed twice as loud.
"Thank the Emperor, an infirmary!" Titus exclaimed at the sign, after the man-rats' skulls had been thoroughly crushed under his bare heels. The creatures had been trying to pry their way in with crowbars, but the thick sliding door held fast, long enough for Titus and his group to deal with them in melee.
Seeing as he was carrying Merrill on his back, Titus had to resort to kicks.
"There should be some meds in there potent enough to get Merrill back on her feet," said Warrick, as he examined what was left of the door's keypad. "Ruined," he stated, and picked up one of the crowbars. "Marine, help me out."
Titus nodded. "Keep watch, Maxson," he said, as he put Merrill down gently by the wall and joined Warrick in forcing the door open. The old Sergeant, to his credit, had already managed to create a gap wide enough for Titus to force his fingers into, allowing the Marine to apply his considerable strength against the door's hydraulics. Within a minute, after much groaning and creaking the door opened... prompting the infirmary's sole occupant to fire his weapon.
"G-G-GET BACK! G-GET BACK! I-I'LL KILL YOU RAT B-B-BASTARDS!" the desperately stuttering screamer punctuated his shouting with laspistol blasts. Though ill-aimed, one of the three rays of light managed to singe Titus' hair before he moved to cover.
"HOLD YOUR FIRE!" yelled Warrick. "WE'RE FRIENDLIES!"
The shots stopped, and there was a moment of awkward silence before the nervous voice made itself heard again. "A-a-are you humans? Like, real humans?"
"Yeah, we are!" Warrick replied, putting his hand in front of the open door. "See? No fur!"
"Oh... Oh! Thank the Emperor."
Titus peered inside the infirmary, and saw a man emerging from behind a chirurgeon's trolley. His thin frame was wrapped in the colours of the Imperial Navy, while his bespectacled face had gone pale due to stress, contrasting sharply with his dark hair. His sidearm was still drawn, but no longer pointed at the door, inviting the group in.
"Are you the apothecary?" asked Titus. "We have wounded."
In response, Titus picked Merrill up and brought her into the infirmary.
"Oh, Emperor!" the man's face was bled dry of fear upon seeing the wounded woman, and quickly replaced by concern. "Get her on that table, now!" He quickly began the work to mend Merrill's injured leg, and Titus got his answer.
The doctor quickly and expertly sutured Merrill's leg, after he had ensured her survival by repairing the torn blood vessel that had slowly been killing her. As he finished his work, Warrick raided the cupboards and drawers for any portable medicines, while Titus had a look around the infirmary. Its walls were surprisingly clean —
LET ME DIE
— A lesser man would have grasped his skull with both hands at the headache caused by the flash of memory, but Titus merely winced, and resumed walking about the infirmary.
"Are you alright?" asked Warrick. "You seemed in a trance, for a moment."
"I'm alright," said Titus. "Just a headache."
"Ah well." Warrick tossed him a bottle of pills, and Titus caught it casually. Painkillers. "This oughta help with that."
The chamber was of average size for a cruiser this large, meant to provide preventive and emergency care for at least two dozen people. Ward beds festooned with well-maintained diagnostic machines were partitioned from each other with cloth screens, while metal panels divided the room further into an examination room, an emergency surgery room, a doctor's office and a nurse's desk.
The nurse in question was lying on the floor dead, killed mid-transformation by several laspistol shots to the chest and head. More corpses were laying around – the man-rats by laser shot, the humans by the dead creatures' hands and teeth, evidently.
Curiosity compelled Titus to part the sheets hiding a particular bed. He was greeted by the sight of a dead woman, covered in her own blood. Her belly had been gnawed from the inside out by a rat creature the size of a babe, which had had much of its flesh flash-boiled away by laser fire.
The voids in its body — its meat — were the size of a child's fist, and were still smoking, if only slightly. The few trails of vapors had been enough for Titus to be hit hard by the smell of cooked baby rat, making his stomach growl.
Once the doctor's work was done, Titus approached him to talk, if only to distract himself from thoughts of food. "Will she be alright?" Titus asked, genuinely concerned.
"She'll be fine," replied the doctor professionally, eyes fixed on the diagnosticator. "That tourniquet held fast..." he pointed at the intravenous injection system clamped on Merrill's arm. "So the plasma infusion won't take long. Veins are reconnected... but the damage to the bone will require specialized care. She won't be able to use her leg for a while." Satisfied at the diagnosticator's results, he turned to Titus, and looked up at him, awed by his size. "Ah... n-n-name's Orser," the man introduced himself, his voice nasal. "I-I'm sorry about earlier, I thought you were one of those things, ah, Sir...?"
"Valorius Titus," replied the Marine to Orser's expectant tone, before introducing the rest of the group. "And it is quite alright, you had just gone through a harrowing ordeal." Titus nodded slightly at the pregnant woman's bed.
Orser sighed miserably, and Titus put a hand on his shoulder.
"Forgive me for asking, but... are you a Space Marine?"
Since explaining his exact situation would have taken up far, far too much time and raised an equal amount of suspicion, Titus merely nodded. It was technically correct – after all, he still had the same bio-augmentations of a Space Marine.
"Oh!" Orser radiated relief as he made the sign of the aquila. "Emperor be praised! He sent us his angels of death! I..." The doctor was about to prostrate before Titus, before realizing two big problems. "Wait, where's your armor? And where are the other Marines?"
"Sorry to disappoint you, Dr. Orser," said Warrick, carrying several hypos filled with stimulants and four packets of somatic gel patches, ready to be distributed. "But the other Marines are dead or dying. Hell, they were the first to go."
"That's..." Orser stammered, becoming pale once more. "No! That's impossible!"
Inwardly, Titus agreed. Warrick must have caught his expression, because what he said next was directed at him. "They were hit in waves, and they wasted those oversized rounds of theirs in three round bursts. Once their mags ran out they were swarmed, and those little crystal weapons tore up their fancy armour." He turned to Orser. "Angels of death aren't coming to save us, doctor."
"Oh..." Orser looked like he was about to faint. "Then what hope do WE have of surviving?"
Warrick sat Orser down on a stool, and explained his plan.
"I-I-I'm no soldier," said Orser. "The hangar's too far, I'd be of no use to you in a fight!"
Warrick smiled. "That's alright, I've got something else in mind for you."
-Section 4, Main hallway-
Sitting on a wheelchair, injected with both anesthetics and stimulants, Merrill was what known on some worlds as 'high as a kite'. This was a good thing, because it kept her from screaming her head off as Orser pushed her chair as fast as he could, trying desperately to stay ahead of the horde of man-rats chasing them.
"MEAT-MEAT!" the man-rats chanted. "TASTY MAN-THINGS' MEAT-SWEET-MEATS!"
Orser, who was not medicated and fully aware of their situation, screamed loud enough for the both of them.
"KEEP RUNNING, ALL OF YOU!" shouted Warrick. "WE'RE ALMOST THERE!" The sergeant didn't actually know how close they were to their goal.
Maxson reloaded Merril's SMG — which was quite the feat while sprinting — and he sprayed a burst of bullets at the horde. Sweeping at the creatures' knees, as Titus had told him, the soldier managed to slow the stampeding rats down, but just a bit. "HOW MUCH FARTHER?!"
"NOT..." Orser gasped, out of breath. "NOT LONG NOW! TURN LEFT! WE NEED TO TURN LEFT HERE!"
The group turned left, and the elevator doors could be seen down the corridor, with only a few rats in the way. Titus stopped to take aim with Maxson's scoped autogun, perforating the skull of every man-rat in their way.
Not a shot was wasted.
Orser was the first to arrive at the elevator controls. "Come on... come on..." the button blinked under his repeated pressing, urged by the slowly approaching horde, barely kept at bay by the soldiers. Orser looked up – the express elevator cabin was just a few floors away. The doors slipped open just as Maxson ran out of ammo for his weapon.
"GET IN! GET IN!" urged Orser as he pushed Merrill's chair inside. The Guardsmen followed him in as Titus covered their retreat by flailing his knife wildly, beheading as many as four man-rats with each swing. He was the last to get in, but the doors refused to close. Their foes, grinning, kept their hands on the doors, triggering the safeties. Even as Titus killed them, more hands set themselves on the edges of the door.
"Trapped! You are trapped, man-things!" cackled one of the rats. "Time to die-die soon!"
"Give me the girl-meat!" snarled another. "Give her! And mercy I shall give!"
Even under the fog of the drugs, Merrill felt a pang of fear. "Nuh... no, please!"
"Like hell!" bellowed Warrick, firing his weapon into the horde. "Orser! Override the doors!"
"How?!" Orser protested. He was a doctor, not a tech.
"Are you kidding me?! Pull the goddamned lever!"
Orser looked, and truly enough, right next to the array of floor buttons, there was a large lever with the words "Emergency closure" engraved above it. "Oh!" He quickly pulled it down, and the door's hydraulics shut the doors so fast the few rats that had managed to get half-way past them were bisected from skull to heel, their halves falling on the floor at Titus' feet.
The group breathed a sigh of relief as the elevator made its way up to a higher level. Maxson sat down, leaning back against the wall, while Warrick slapped some Somatic Gel patches on the young soldier's wounds.
"Check your ammo, people," ordered the Sergeant. "How are we doing?"
Titus and Maxson's reports could be summed up as 'not well'. Titus only had the one full magazine, and Maxson had spent all of his SMG ammo creating walls of rat-meat the horde had to climb over. He was down to his snub-nosed lasgun and its single power cell, which meant that as far as stopping power went, he was down to nothing.
"And my drum of shells is half-spent," stated Warrick.
"Uh, ah..." Orser stammered. "There's a security office on the way to the hangar, not to mention a checkpoint... there should be some ammo and weapons there, I think?"
Warrick shook his head. "The rats are avid looters – the lockers have no doubt already been thoroughly pilfered."
- Hangar Bay 4 Security Checkpoint -
The elevator doors slid open, and the group of survivors came upon a man-rat with a bag slung over its shoulder. "Miiiiine mine mine!" it slurred as it looked about, looking for more things to fill the sack. It also had a goat's horn on its belt, and after beholding the group in bemused surprise, its eyes widened as it reached for the instrument, intent on blowing into it to summon the horde.
Lasgun beams flash-boiled its blood, and after a few loud pops and sizzles the rat was quite dead.
"Well done, Maxson," congratulated Titus.
"Thank you, sir," replied Maxson.
Warrick took a quick look around at the Security checkpoint, and for a moment he thought he was in a starport. As predicted, the security booth had been broken into, and through the broken windows he could see that the weapon lockers were empty.
"Fat loot!" giggled Merrill.
Warrick looked to see what Merrill was fussing about, and indeed the sack had been filled with a great deal of loot – gaming dice, bottles of green beer, some medical supplies... and cartons of ammunition, some of which matched their firearms.
"And no extra magazines to put them in," lamented Maxson, who had discarded his empty magazines during the earlier chase. Titus, for his part had kept one in his pocket.
"The man-rat looter probably discarded them as useless metal boxes," said Titus.
"Let's check the place," ordered Warrick. "We're bound to find some."
The group managed to find some spare magazines, and used the sack of munitions to replenish their ammunition. The security offices had less to offer, though there had been some hope when Titus found a locked room. After forcing his way in, all he found was a naval security officer, dead with a laspistol in his mouth.
Finally, they came upon the large double doors of the Hangar Bay 4, and Orser began to toy around with the access pad's wires. As he worked, Warrick and Titus stacked up on the sides of the opening, ready to pounce on anything unfriendly behind it.
"They teach that at doctor school, doc?" asked Maxson, who pushed a sleeping Merrill away from the front of the door. He could see that the doctor seemed to know what he was doing.
"I uh, I had other interests as a child," replied the doctor.
"Thought you weren't a tech," accused Warrick.
"S-s-still not, but hot-wiring an elevator panel while man-rats scream for your blood... well, it's hard, alright?"
Warrick rolled his eyes.
"Well, thank the Emperor for that," stated Maxson, "because we'd look stupid getting so close to the goal only to be foiled by a damned door."
That earned a small chuckle from Orser. "Almost done..." there was a brief spark as Orser put two open wires together, and as the doors slid open...
- Hangar Bay 4 -
...The screams and roars of sustained gunfire that it been holding back washed over the survivors.
"You three, stay here!" commanded Warrick. "Titus, with me!"
Titus and Warrick emerged onto a walkway overseeing the vast hangar, their own guns roaring at armored man-rats armed with their own twisted versions of the Imperial lasrifle. Down below, a full platoon of Kaladan Fusilliers had entrenched themselves by a small starship's loading ramp, using cargo crates as fortification. Atop the alien vessel stood a figure clad in a green cloak, armed with a two-pronged weapon that spat lightning. Titus was impressed at his handiwork: there were no less than three Rat-Marines dead with holes in their skulls, and they had died far from the fort of crates.
"...That's a Tau!" Titus exclaimed, shocked, and then he beheld the ship the Tau was standing on – it was painted black with white trim, and there were components of a technology he had never seen before, but the lines and curves were unmistakable. "And that's a Tau ship! What are they doing here of all places?!"
"Who cares?!" Warrick shouted back. "Incoming at your 3 o'clock!
Titus and Warrick's timely arrival had prevented the soldiers from being overwhelmed, as the man-rat soldiers on the walkway turned their aim at the two fighters, forcing them into cover.
The Lieutenant leading the remaining Fusilliers, a bearded bald man with a mildly-decorated uniform, saw them. "Duncan! Thufir!" he shouted at his remaining marksmen. "Friendlies on the catwalk! Support them!"
Long-las shots having ignited the very brains of their attackers, Warrick and Titus stormed the walkway, killing every rat threatening the platoon below. A Rat-Gunner, having just emerged from a large airvent above, suddenly found himself alone with no support whatsoever, or even a single rat to delay his inevitable doom in the form a large, half-naked 'man-thing' charging at him with a really big knife.
It barely had time to scream.
"Cover me!" shouted Titus at Warrick. "I'm commandeering the xeno weapon!"
As Warrick took on all comers with his shotgun, Titus worked quickly in fastening the rat-gunner's large ammo drum to his own back, and heaved the chainsaw-gripped, crystal powered rotary magnetic gun over the handrails and loosed a rain of green shot at the swarm below. Warrick aided in the slaughter, having claimed the rat-gunner's grenade launcher for himself and making very effective use of it.
When the drum was empty, Titus' weapon died, its last gasps of life the crackle of green warp energies. Nevertheless, it had claimed the lives of well over three hundred man-rats, ending this small part of the battle in Mankind's favour. The men, who had thought themselves utterly doomed, cheered at their victory, survival, and their saviours.
"QUIET!" shouted the Lieutenant, "This is not over! Check your battery packs! Re-fill your magazines!" He looked up at Warrick and smiled. "Warrick! I see that you're still alive!"
"Lieutenant Halleck!" Warrick saluted casually, having discarded the spent grenade launcher. "I live through no fault of my own, I assure you!" Just then, Maxson, Orser and Merrill came through, curious at the sudden silence. "I have wounded, Sir! Permission to let them aboard..." he hesitated, now that he saw that his hope of escaping had been a Xeno ship all along. "... the xeno ship, sir?"
"Permission granted! The owners of this filthy Xeno ship won't mind!"
A quick nod from Warrick, and Orser and Maxson were prompted to help Merrill down the metal catwalk's steps. Titus and Warrick were about to join them, but Halleck stopped them.
"Hold!" he bellowed. "I need someone at the control room!" he pointed at a large metal pod bolted to the ceiling, festooned with windows so that the crew within could overlook the whole hangar. It was at least a hundred meters away, and four stories above them. By the looks of it, the control chamber could not be accessed from the catwalk. "I sent a squad out there!"
"They're no doubt already dead, Sir!" Warrick replied.
"Perhaps, and thus their mission remains unfulfilled!" he gestured at the vast opening of the hangar with his chainsword. It was closed off by thick, armoured panels. "They were to open the way out, and now the task falls upon you!"
"Oh, bloody hell," cursed Warrick. He looked at the control room again, and could make out the shapes of more rats.
"Belay that, Sergeant," Titus told Warrick quietly. He turned to to Halleck, raising his voice to be heard. "I will go in his stead! I have a better chance of succeeding! Let Warrick join his men!"
The balding officer glared up at Titus. "And who in the Eye of Terror are YOU to order my men and I around?!"
"Valorious Titus," came the reply. "Space Marine."
And that was that.
—Hangar Bay 4 Control Room—
The way up to the control room had been eerily quiet, and devoid of any danger. That worried Titus greatly – such calm could not last.
"This is Titus," the Space Marine said out loud. Warrick had given him his compact Vox-Caster to stay in communication. "I'm inside the control room." He shot a wounded man-rat. "Clear, no hostiles."
"And my men?" asked Lieutenant Halleck over the channel. His tone was not hopeful.
"They're dead," said Titus, seeing the corpses of the Fusilliers that had fought and died here. Twice their number in man-rats lay dead with them. "They fought well, Lieutenant."
"...Emperor watch their souls..." Halleck prayed, then refocused his attention on the task at hand. He relayed the surviving sailors' instructions on how to open the gateway keeping the Xeno ship trapped, which Titus followed to the letter.
"There," said Titus as he pressed one last button and pulled one last lever. A voice rang out over the hangar's vox system, warning the work crew of the impending opening of the bay doors.
"Warning: Hangar doors will open in... calculating... calculating... warning, low power. Doors will open in —FIVE— minutes. ERROR...Atmospheric shield is non-functional. Staff with no space gear are to evacuate the bay immediately."
Alarms blared, and klaxons screamed, and seconds later more man-rats streamed through every vent of of the hangar.
"Curse the man who made them so wide!" he spat. "Lieutenant! I'm on my way!"
—Hangar Bay 4—
For four minutes, there were no end to them. Halleck had been the first to fall, killed by an knife-wielding assassin too quick for the Tau sniper to hit before it disappeared in a cloud of smoke, leaving Warrick to rally the men into one last defense before the bay door opened. Titus had managed to cut a path back to the crate fort, and joined the defense. The Tau sniper had retreated back to his ship half-way through the countdown. Coward, Titus cursed him inwardly, just like the rest of his race!
The Fusilliers' power packs were being drained dry, their magazines were becoming light, and their courage began to run low.
"HOLD FAST, MEN!" Warrick bellowed. "JUST A FEW SECONDS MORE!"
"HOLD FAST!" echoed Titus, louder.
"DIE FAST!" echoed the horde in unison. "DIE FAST!"
"30 Seconds until hangar gate opens. Please evacuate now."
That was when IT appeared: a man-rat, larger than a dreadnought and with just as much armour bolted onto its flesh. The lumbering giant approached, crushing its smaller brethren underfoot, and as it got closer it brought its arms to bear.
Its hands were Melta-cannons.
"Oh no," muttered Warrick, as the beams of heat began to tear into the hull. "We've lost."
Without a word, Titus picked up Halleck's sword and unholstered his bolter pistol, and waded through man-rats — living and dead alike — to engage the giant in melee, but not before unloading his bolt pistol into the melta-cannons, ruining their function. Titus' task was not done, however: the rat-giant would still charge past the Fusilliers and destroy the ship from within.
Not unless it was busy fighting for its life.
And that was a fight Titus was more than willing to give.
"TITUS!" shouted Warrick. "NOOO! GET BACK INTO LINE!"
With a running start, the forsaken marine charged at the giant, and it replied in kind. Quickly, just as its ruined hands were about to ram into him, Titus slid on his knees, avoiding the giant's swing, and allowing him to give the creature's groin a taste of high-velocity chainsaw teeth. Titus emerged behind it as it fell on its knees screaming, and climbed onto its back. Unexpectedly, the creature got back on its feet, and attempted to shrug Titus off.
"Kill the man-thiiiiiing!" screeched one of the man-rats as they joined the fray, attempting to jump on the giant's back and kill Titus, eager to claim his head as a prize... only to be stomped by the rat-giant's feet or knocked away by its flailing arms.
"15 Seconds until hangar gate opens. Please evacuate now."
"TITUS!" shouted Warrick once more.
"GO!" Titus yelled, desperately trying to deliver a killing blow to the giant's brain. "GO WHILE YOU STILL CAN!"
"Sir!" yelled a private. "We can't help him!"
"We're out of time!" yelled another.
"We need to flee! Warn the Imperium of these creatures! The Marine is dead, let his death not be in vain."
It was all true, Warrick knew, and with a grim resignation he gave the order. "Get to the ship." Damn it all to hell. "GET TO THE SHIP!" he bellowed again. The guardsmen ran up the loading ramp, with Warrick the last to go. He took one last look at Titus before smashing the large red button that retracted the ramp and closed the bay door.
Titus knew he wasn't going to survive this, but he'd be damned if he didn't at least kill this disgusting creature. It bucked and leapt, but he held fast, occasionally striking armour with the chainsword, hoping that something would come off and expose something vital.
Eventually, the thing that came off was Titus himself. Thrown off the giant's back, he landed on top of a few man-rats, sending them sprawling to the ground.
The smaller man-rats began to swarm over Titus, crystal picks in hand, ready to tear him apart.
"Hangar bay doors opening."
The air began to rush out through the widening maw, sending every rat in the bay flying. Titus tried to hold on to a piece of railing, only to be rushed by the giant rat. It barreled into him, sending them both tangled together into the void.
Titus exhaled, and suppressed the pain of his blood boiling as his skin was exposed to the airless emptiness of space. Holding on tightly to the beast's fur, he buried his combat knife into its brain, and turned its head so that the rat-giant's eye could behold the cause of its death.
Titus pushed himself off the rat-giant's corpse, and watched as the Tau ship escaped. He held no hope of rescue, and none came, for streaks of weapons fire chased after the ship. Titus looked at their source.
It was an Imperial ship.
Traitors? Thought Titus. No... he took a better look at it: it was indeed an Imperial cruiser, but it has had piece from other ships bolted onto it to make it space worthy, the glorious white and gold of its once pristine church like form hull marred by the black and green of corrupted industry. it has been corrupted by the touch of these Xenos.
The Tau helmsman — was it the Tau? — proved to be capable, and dodged and weaved through laser fire and crystal bolts. Despite this, Titus lamented not being to help.
He didn't have to. Something exploded inside the enemy ship, robbing it of power. Titus wondered what caused it, but he supposed it didn't matter – the Tau ship escaped, opening a gate to the surface of the Warp that would take it elsewhere, hopefully to the nearest Imperial outpost. He hoped that he hadn't helped the Tau get more auxilliaries...
He had done his part. He had helped servants of the Emperor escape with their lives and in doing so ended the lives of their enemies by the hundreds.
This is a good death, thought Titus, as his blood boiled, slowly killing him. This is the death of a Space Marine, not a forsaken and forgotten heretic. This is what I wanted.
He closed his eyes, and waited to welcome death.
Valorius Titus. I have watched you, I have seen your deeds, and I have seen the contents of your heart.
You have shown relentlessness in the face of your enemy.
You have shown selflessness in the face of adversity.
You have shown valour in the face of death.
And for that, you have been chosen.
A blue sphere of light surrounded Titus...
Now is not the day you die.
...and when he opened his eyes, there was the warmth of sunlight, the chirping of birds, and the face of a curious child looking down at him.
End of Chapter 1: The Heretic.
Author's notes: Before you ask... No, this is not a crossover with Exalted. That being said, there are mysterious powers at work here, and they look to Titus with great interest... among others.
In any case, Stay tuned for Act 1 Chapter 2: The Inquisitor.
Special thanks to my extra-generous Patrons: SomeguyOverHere, Pengu1n, Scythe967, Austin, and Jchan!
Extra Special thanks to Kalaong and Another Grey, my top Patrons, and WarpObscura for the spellchecking!
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