The Enemy Without

"Brother Ramonos! To the left!"

Ramonos spun at Koroth's warning, bringing his heavy bolter to bear on the Necrons to their flank. The matte-black weapon barked roughly as Ramonos' grip tightened on the trigger, sending explosive bolts thumping out into the skeletal enemies. The bolts shredded the living metal of the Necrons' bodies, smashing them to the ground and tearing off limbs.

Koroth knifed his left hand towards the Necrons. Ramonos was reaping a huge tally, but the damn xenos just wouldn't stay dead. Bodies twitched as they reassembled themselves, staggering roughly to their feet only to be scythed down again. "Telarius, support Ramonos," he ordered. "Aguilus, cover the rear."

The two marines did not waste time acknowledging his order, and turned their bolters on the Necrons. Telarius picked off downed Necrons with deadly accuracy, sending shots into skulls and joints that left the Necrons in quivering, sparking pieces. Aguilus took cover behind a rune-covered pillar, sighting down the M23 scope on the end of the corridor that lead to the chamber.

Koroth nodded to the two remaining marines. "Brother-Librarian Garael, Brother Vayel, with me. The xenos' means of access should be in the next chamber. We must locate it, and destroy it. Ave Imperator!"

"Ave Imperator!" echoed the two Deathwatch marines. They fell in behind Koroth as he strode up to the massive, locked doors at the end of the chamber. His lightning claws slid from their sheaths with a hiss, the crackling discharges of the their power fields filling the chamber with a harsh blue light.

He took one step, and hammered his right claw into the door with all his genetically enhanced strength. The five energy-wreathed blades smashed through the alien metal of the door like it wasn't there, the power fields disrupting it at an atomic level and letting the mono-molecular edged blades slice cleanly through.

He ripped his claw downwards, opening a gash in the door. Green light poured through from the other side. His other claw punched through beside the first, and tore a similar wound in the door. "Brother-Librarian?" he said, moving backwards.

Garael stepped forwards, black fires springing to life behind his helmet as he tapped the unholy power of the warp. Koroth heard the Librarian grunt as the strain built, and then a cracking whip of black lightning lashed out from Garael and smashed into the door. It hit the section between Koroth's blows, and blasted it back into the room beyond.

The whip of power seemed to shudder for a moment, and then it unravelled into nothingness as Garael released his grip upon the immaterium. Koroth stormed through the newly opened gap, Vayel behind him.

A huge, metal spire dominated the large chamber, covered in arcane engravings. Green lightning sparked over its surface. At the centre, facing towards them, was a pulsating rectangle, throwing sickly light out into the chamber. In front of it stood the Necron Lord.

As tall as the marines, it was shrouded in a tattered cloak, and gripped a huge, bladed staff in one hand. Its skull-face was adorned with an ornate golden head-dress, and its eyes crackled with lightning, glaring at them with a malevolent intelligence.

"Brothers!" cried Koroth. "With me! Irae Imperator!"

"The wrath of the Emperor is with us!" answered the kill-team. Ramonos, Telarius and Aguilus moved forwards to join Koroth, turning their weapons on the Necron Lord.

Koron threw himself towards the Lord, slashing out with his lightning claws. The xenos brought its staff up in a parry, the blades catching and holding Koroth's claws. He snarled, and ducked backwards as it lashed out with its taloned free hand. Vayel darted past him, his power fist arcing down towards the Necron's head.

It moved backwards without even looking at Vayel, and its staff whipped out towards him. Vayel barely managed to get his fist up in time to stop it, and then Koroth was back. He struck for its face, and when it dodged back, he followed up with a lunge for its abdomen. The claws struck home, and almost tore the creature in two at the waist.

It fell to the floor, sparks flying from the ragged gash in its side. Koroth stood over it, as his marines assembled around him. "Telarius," he said, "take its head."

The marine nodded, and stepped up to the Necron, letting his bolter hang on its strap and drawing his combat knife. He leaned down, and stabbed the blade into the xenos' neck.

And then the Necron convulsed, its staff lancing upwards into Telarius' stomach. The Lord's eyes snapped open again, and it stood, ripping its staff upwards through Telarius' chest. It puled free from his throat in a welter of blood, and the marine dropped to the floor.

Everything moved at once. The Deathwatch charged at the xenos, weapons ready. As the first bolts thumped out from Aguilus and Ramonos, the Necron turned and fled, leaping into the portal behind it.

Koroth did not hesitate. "Into the portal!" he ordered. "It must not be allowed to escape!" Lightning claws crackling, he led his kill-team after the Necron and into the portal.

Koroth stumbled out onto a wind-blasted desert, illuminated beneath the faint light of a blue star. His autosenses whirred for a moment as they readjusted themselves, calibrating for the new environment, and he saw the xenos ahead.

The rest of the kill-team came through the portal, each as disoriented as Koroth was. The Necron fled, its metallic body glinting in the blue light.

"Ramonos, take it," ordered Koroth. It was too far away to catch on foot. "Aguilus, support him." The two marines nodded, and moved forwards into firing position.

The Necron was about fifty metres away when Ramonos opened fire. The high-calibre bolts blasted craters in the rocky outcrops that dotted the desert, throwing splinters of rock into the air. Ramonos adjusted his aim, and his shots traced sideways onto the Necron.

The first hit it in the right arm, spinning it around and taking off its hand. The second smashed into its chest, throwing it backwards, metal and wires flailing from the wound. The next shot struck its knee, ripping the leg off entirely, and then the next streaking into its skull. The headless xenos lay sprawled on the floor as Ramonos released the trigger, quietening the tempest of fire.

"Brother-Captain!" called Vayel. "The portal!"

Koroth turned, just in time to see the portal snap closed and disappear into nothingness. They were stranded, wherever they were. "Brother-Librarian, can you locate us?" he asked.

Garael bowed his head for a moment. When he looked up, his eyes glowed dead black. "The warp is not as it should be. It is… calmer. As if untouched. There is nothing that corresponds to anywhere I have ever seen, Brother-Captain."

"Then where are we?" asked Aguilus.

"I cannot say." The black light faded from Garael's eyes. "We know next to nothing about the Necrons and their technology. That portal could have transported us halfway across the galaxy. Or even into a completely different galaxy altogether."

"A different galaxy?" said Aguilus. "But how?"

"As I said, I do not know. It is but a guess."

Koroth stepped forwards. "Brothers," he said. "I am as confused by this as we all are, but it appears we may yet receive answers." He pointed with one hand towards the horizon.

A silver glint was barely visible. Koroth increased the magnification on his helmet's autosenses, and it resolved into a vehicle of a type unlike anything he had ever seen, moving rapidly towards them. It was coloured silver, and vaguely resembled a Chimera transport, except for the fact that it moved on wide wheels rather than tracks.

"Orders, Brother-Captain?" asked Ramonos.

"Get into defensible firing positions in the rocks. Whatever it is, if it's not human it dies."

The marines nodded, and began picking their way through the rocks, finding covered positions.

Lieutenant Mischa Polonez turned to her driver. "Anything coming up?"

"Nothing since, Lieutenant."

Mischa frowned. Barely five minutes ago, they had detected energy readings completely off the charts, out in the desert. Gunshots, or something resembling them, had echoed for miles. And then, for some reason, everything had gone quiet again. Nothing.

As the closest unit, Mischa and her squad had been dispatched in the colony's only Mako to investigate. The six alliance marines were packed into the Mako, clutching their weapons and hoping that it was nothing.

"How close are we?" she asked.

The driver checked his display. "Within a hundred metres, Lieutena- shit!"

The driver slammed on the brakes as something huge rose from the sands in front of them. Mischa barely had time to recognise it as humanoid, clad in massive black armour, and then the Mako hit it.

It was like hitting a wall. The shape braced itself against the ground, and the transport stopped dead. The kinetic barriers flared and crackled as they fought to displace the energy and stop the hull crumpling inwards, and then the Mako shuddered to a complete stop.

Mischa picked herself up off the floor. "Damage?" she managed to splutter.

The driver was more shaken than she was. "Uhh… nothing structural, lieutenant. The barriers are struggling, though. What was that?"

Mischa pulled her rifle out, and gestured to her squad. "Let's go and find out."

The squad emerged from the back of the Mako, moving in tight formation around the vehicle. Whatever they had hit was around the front, and they didn't know if it was friendly or not. Judging by the fact that it hadn't done anything else yet, Mischa didn't think it was hostile, but then it could have been more fazed by the impact than she thought.

When they rounded the corner of the Mako, she gasped as she saw what they had hit. A giant, well over eight foot tall, encased in black armour. Gold and silver traced ornate decorations across the thick plates, and the eyes in the helm glowed red. One shoulder plate was engraved with silver traceries, and the other was covered in a strange design; a stylised U on a dark blue background It looked at her.

"Identify yourselves," it boomed.

"Mischa Polonez," she stammered, "Lieutenant of the Systems Alliance Military. Who the hell are you?"

It stood impassive, and she was about to venture another question, when four other shapes emerged from the surrounding rocks, almost identical to the first. They strode across to join their comrade. One, with the design of an archaic white raven on his right shoulder and a pair of crackling claws built into his gauntlets, stepped up to her.

"Good, Aguilus," he said to the first. He turned to her as the one they had hit – Aguilus? – stepped back to join the others. "We, lieutenant Mischa Polonez of the Systems Alliance Military, are the Adeptus Astartes. We are the Deathwatch."

Mischa's mind raced. Adeptus Astartes? Deathwatch? What were these men? Were they even men? Where had they come from? "What are you doing here?" she asked.

It gestured to its right with one claw. She could just make out a silver shape on the sand. "We followed the xenos here, through a portal that closed upon its death."

"Xenos? Portal?" she said, wondering what the giant was talking about. "Banks, go check the body out."

Banks ran over to the body, and bent down to check it. One of the giants tracked him with a gun larger than she was. Banks looked up. "It's not like anything I've seen, lieutenant!" he called. "The only thing that it sort of resembles is the Geth!"

Geth? But what would a Geth be doing here? And why only one?

"It is a Necron," announced the lead Astartes. "Do not approach too close. It may still rise."

"Still rise?" said Banks, tentatively. "But it doesn't have a head."

"The Necrons are unnatural alien scum," said the Astartes. "They possess the ability to repair almost any damage. Brother-Librarian Garael will destroy it fully."

What were the Necrons? Where the hell had they come from? "Whoever you are," she began.

"I am Brother-Captain Koroth," interrupted the Astartes.

"Right," she nodded, "Brother-Captain Koroth. Where are you from?"

"We are the Deathwatch. We are from no one planet. Now, we must secure passage to the Inquisitorial fortress on Poralis Secundus. You will take us there."

"What is the Inquisiton? And where the hell is Poralis Secundus?"

Koroth looked as disgusted as he could from behind a closed helm. He turned to one of his men, one whose helmet had a strange crest behind it in the shape of a barred I. "Brother-Librarian, you may be correct."

He turned back to her. "In that case, take us to your command centre. We must ascertain the state of events in this galaxy."

In this galaxy? But that meant- "You're not from this galaxy?"

"It would appear not."