Incident on Petronius IV (Part 2)


Fire Team Alpha was forced to explore the xeno bug tunnels beneath Petronius IV.

“The rest of the night passed uneventfully. In the morning, the storm was gone—and the sun was blazing. We picked up the advance and reached the main facility after an hour. Again, we saw signs of lasgun fire everywhere—and signs that heavier ordinance had been used. A security fence had surrounded the facility, but it was torn apart in sections. And the front entrance also was open—literally torn in two.”

“We entered in standard assault mode for interior fighting—two privates with lasguns in the lead, supported by a guardsmen with a heavy bolter. The interior was exactly as we expected … in shambles. There were no bodies. Just devastation everywhere.”

“We were halfway through our search of the facility when we heard it—the high-pitched noise that the logs had described. The Tech Priest ordered us to follow the sound. I noted that he hadn’t shown much interest in the cogitators or their data. I thought he would have gathered his data and gotten us out of there as quick as possible. If I’d thought harder on that, I would have realized that Vorkalth was up to something.”

“At the time, though, I just figured he was curious. I was, too, but I was more inclined to evacuate and call for reinforcements. But we went after the sound. By now, I knew we were hearing some kind of bug noise. We moved cautiously until we reached a secondary stairwell and a collapsed part of the wall. There was a tunnel in the gap, roughly circular with a sticky but firm residue that seemed to be acting like a glue holding the sand in place.”

“Vorkalth wanted to explore. I won’t go into the long argument we had. I admit I started to lose my temper, but the Tech Priest finally used an argument I couldn’t refute. The priests of Mars are Imperial citizens, too, and we were duty bound to seek out survivors. And, as we couldn’t assess the danger as beyond our means to counter, we had no justification for abandoning our mission.”

“He had me. I knew it. He knew it. So, although I hated the idea, down the tunnel we went.”

“The tunnels were reminiscent of a cave—but one that was too circular to be natural. It sloped downward. We had to turn on the luminators on our helmets. I put Pvt. Sartak up front with the motion detector. But there was no movement—nor side passages—for several hundred meters.

“Finally, the tunnel opened up. But it wasn’t a simply a larger room. It was a vertical chamber with a rock bridge spanning the depths. Our luminators couldn’t shine to the bottom, so it must have been rather deep. There was a strange acidic smell to the air, and there was some kind of irritant in the air, as our eyes started to water.”

“I wasn’t sure about crossing that rocky span; it was only about a meter wide. But Vorkalth simply walked past us and crossed. Bloody bastard. Didn’t ask. Didn’t try to coordinate a crossfire. Just walked across.”

“Well, he was a lot heavier than the rest of us, what with all his augmentations and servitor arms. But I wasn’t going to take too many chances. We crossed one at a time. Sartak first, who then used his lasgun to provide cover fire if needed. Then Zayan started across.”

“That’s when the bugs hit us. The walls were pockmarked with craters and cracks, and with so little light available, we didn’t notice that some of the shadows actually were tunnels in their own right—tunnels that opened right into the vertical shaft.”


A distant glimpse of the threat posed on Petronius IV.

“Our first clue that something was amiss was another strange sound. It wasn’t like the high-pitched noise we’d heard earlier—the frequency was lower, more of a humming noise. Then something shot out of one of those wall tunnels—something big. And the chamber filled with a drone sound that was as loud as a Valkyrie’s engines.”

“It was a flying bug. I only got a glimpse. It slammed into Zayan and dragged him off the bridge. Down he went, screaming, with the bug hanging onto him.”

“It happened too fast for anyone to get a shot. But soon enough, the chamber was filled with the flying bastards. They were a greenish color, with an almost metallic sheen to their shell. That was all I can tell you about them. Because we lit up the air with lasgun fire, while Corporal Keve opened up with the bolter.”

“In hindsight, it was an easy fight. Once we started shooting, the bugs went down quickly. We were crunched up against the walls, and I think that made it difficult for the bugs to attack. As fast as their wings were vibrating, just touching the wall might have busted them up pretty good. So they tended to come in, slow to a hover, as if they were going to ease forward. Gave us plenty of time to take them down.”

“I wasn’t too happy to lose Zayan, but those are the fortunes of war—and the Tech Priest had disappeared down the corridor, so I didn’t have much time to reflect. If I’d had my way, I would have turned around and taken the shuttle back into orbit. But I had a job to do, so I had the men reload, and then we went after Vorkalth.”

Read part 3 of the Inquisition report.

Or start with part 1 of the Inquisition report.

The Corvus Cluster is a hobby blog that focuses on the wargaming adventures of the Wednesday Night Gamers of Alexandria in the Warhammer 40K universe.

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