Flag-Captain Gideon Ramoth shifted uncomfortably as he surveyed the barren landscape around him.
Glancing at the helmeted figure of Matthias further to the west, he scratched his curly, greying beard with his silver-gauntleted left hand and sighed. He was not beholden to the Knight-Lieutenant, nor part of his forces within the Chapter; as a fleet captain, he commanded his own modest retinue of Marines outside of the company structure, for the purpose of defending his vessel. Matthias and his men were merely passengers on the Lantern Knight, and as far as chain of command went, Ramoth outranked the younger marine. No, he didn’t technically have to be here on the inhospitable surface of this dead and emperor-forsaken outpost world, away from the comfortable decks and machinery of his beloved strike cruiser… But here he was, nonetheless. Matthias’s command was small, and made smaller by casualties taken in his recent battles against Dark Eldar pirates. A Bright Lord did not leave his Chapter brother alone and outnumbered against a force handpicked from an entire First Founding Company.
An entire handpicked force which was nowhere to be found, it seemed. From his hilltop perch amongst the foundations of one of the derelict outpost’s many time-worn ruins, all was silent and still save for the motion of black-and-gold ceramite as the Bright Lords took up defensible positions. Scanning the featureless horizon fruitlessly for Raven Guard landing craft, he voxed Matthias to voice his frustrations. “It is bad enough that the Raven Guard’s behavior demands we participate in this farce, but they seem to lack even the courtesy to arrive on time for their own challenge. I wonder if they are not still sitting up in their ships, making mock of us.”
Behind his wedge-visored helmet, Matthias grimaced as his own squad moved forwards cautiously, working their way into the shelter of another long-ruined building. Centuries of dust billowed around him, shaken loose as one of the Chapter’s precious few Predator battle tanks rumbled past them. “Agreed, Captain, but if there’s one thing Shrike has shown us about himself so far, it is that he has a penchant for mind games and false pretenses. If he showed me clear skies, I would caution the men against rain.”
Ramoth sighed again. “Aye; it seems we must defer indignation for the sake of vigilance. Emperor grant me patience.”
Matthias blinked as the heat radiating from the baked, dead ground caused the air near the metallic walls of the silo to ripple and shimmer. He narrowed his eyes. Something was nagging at him… but what?
As the Predator finally rolled to a stop by the side of the silo, the cloud of gray grit thrown up by its movement drifted on, washing past the silo in small eddies and dusting the empty ground beyond. One small patch stopped abruptly, suspended several inches above the ground, and Matthias’ veins turned to ice as he realized what was so familiar about that earlier ripple of air.
Matthias’ voice resounded across the vox. “Gideon! They’re already here, lying in wait for us!”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Ramoth sprang into action, centuries of a void captain’s knowledge of sensor equipment coming into play in an instant . “Elon, auspex!” he snapped, taking the device from the Silverhand next to him and working its controls furiously. “Zabekai! They’re spoofing the scanners - I need a triangulation. Get me the sensor data from the Dreadnoughts and our Predator. Composite them and feed them to my vox channel.” The old captain worked the device’s controls in silence for a tense handful of moments, then spat out a voidfarer’s curse as the auspex lit up with dozens of fuzzy signatures dispersed through the ruins ahead, many of them still creeping their way towards the Bright Lords’ lines. “Joram! Use the vox network to overlay this on everyone’s display. Now!”
“To arms, Bright Lords!” Matthias roared as dozens of virtual green silhouettes painted themselves onto the inside of his visor. “Stand this ambush on its head, like we did at Adrelon! Weapons free!”
Stillness erupted into mayhem, and Ramoth smiled grimly as the dead world’s oppressive silence shattered under the thunder of Bright Lord guns.
To be continued…